Just as people are being asked to stay home from non-essential work in Mexico to stop the spread of the swine flu, a pandemic in the U.S. might require similar steps.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has developed guidelines for businesses to prepare for a pandemic:
Workplace Access and Security
- Restrict and monitor workplace access
- Establish criteria for refusal of access to unfit workers and criteria for return-to-work
- Implement telecommuting capabilities where feasible
- Develop infrastructure to manage meetings by conference call or videoconferencing; when in-person meetings are necessary, keep a separation of at least 6 feet from colleagues and ensure there is adequate ventilation
- Reduce or eliminate noncritical social interactions
- Encourage job rotation or staggered shifts to reduce worker exposure risks related to traveling on public transit during peak times
- Segregate/isolate critical work clusters
- Reduce or eliminate work in low-ventilated areas
- Minimize the use of shared facilities for eating and smoking by staggering meals and breaks or designating multiple sites
- Reduce or eliminate work travel to high-risk regions, and
- Initiate a snow day practice or “reverse quarantine” for nonessential workers.
- Identify critical production needs and reduce nonessential production
- Compile priority requirements for key workers with respect to personal protective equipment and training
- Engage management and workers in discussions on safe work practices, and contingencies available for work force, supply chain, and production
- Maintain effective communications between all workplace parties
- Address dispute resolution regarding health and safety/safe work issues, and
- Identify and mitigate unique exposure risks posed by multiple jobs and shifts by part-time or occasional workers.
- Establish call-in hot-line
- Create up-to-the-minute Web splash page, and
- Launch dedicated “grapevine.”
- Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees and encourages them to stay home; recognize that employees with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them
- Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene; provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces)
- Encourage employees to wash hands frequently and avoid touching nose, mouth, and eyes; germs can live for two hours or more on surfaces
- Encourage employees to cover their coughs and sneezes
- Provide employees with up-to-date education and training on flu risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (proper cough etiquette and care of personal protective equipment).
- Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment, and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean
- Discourage employees from using phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment that are not their own
- Promote healthy lifestyles that include plenty of sleep, physical activity, good nutrition, stress management, drinking plenty of fluids, and smoking cessation
- Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough either with a tissue or upper sleeves then clean your hands
- Clean hands often, and when possible, wash with soap and warm water, rub vigorously together and scrub all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds, and
- When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers, rubbing hands until dry.
For more information from AIHA, click here.