Preparing for a Pandemic

Government agencies are urging employers to create a plan to deal with a flu outbreak.  Although worldwide there are 182,000 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus and nearly 1,800 deaths, interest has waned since late April when the outbreak began.  With the flu season rapidly approaching, consider the following:

· Establish a business plan to reduce the spread of the flu virus while continuing operations with a reduced workforce.

· Encourage workers to get the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines when they become available.

· Consider reassigning jobs duties for more vulnerable employees, e.g. pregnant women and those with certain chronic medical conditions.

· Allow ill workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.

· Develop a flexible leave policy to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or children if schools or child care programs close due to illness.

Even simple strategies can help.  Make sure commonly touched surfaces (computers, copiers, telephones) are cleaned regularly.  If an employee becomes sick while at work, having surgical masks available will help protect others until s/he can get home.  Increase the physical distance between workers if possible, and consider cancelling business-related meetings.  Workers may also be able to perform their tasks on staggered shifts or from home if necessary.

Sick workers are typically out for 3-5 days.  If they have a sick person at home, encourage employees to closely monitor their own health daily.

From Business Insurance, August 24, 2009 issue, pp. 4 and 21.  Also from www.flu.gov