American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) members routinely work with their employers and co-workers preventing workplace injuries and illnesses, including the spread of flu such as the H1N1 flu. Many have developed and implemented contingency and communications plans for their businesses in an effort to minimize the effects of H1N1 flu on workers as well as providing information for workers’ families and communities.
If the flu spreads, officials noted that small businesses can be especially susceptible to the negative economic impacts of a flu pandemic. Employee education and contingency planning will help offset business losses and help minimize disruption to business activities; protect employees’ health and safety; and limit the negative impact to the community, economy and society, according to the ASSE.
“We know risks of this kind can negatively affect workers, families and business operations,” ASSE President C. Christopher Patton said. “Many people are aware of the risks as are our ASSE members, but we want to ensure that all businesses plan now and access the many tools available to prevent the spread of flu. Many businesses now are going above and beyond in working to help minimize the affect the flu may have on their workers and we applaud their efforts.”
ASSE members from around the United States and the ASSE Healthcare Practice Specialty noted that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but suggest business leaders discuss this with their SH&E professional and should:
• develop and implement preparedness plans as one would for other public health emergencies;
• participate in and actively promote state and community public health efforts;
• implement prevention and control strategies as recommended by public health officials and healthcare providers;
• encourage employees to participate in influenza vaccination programs annually;
• communicate information about the signs and symptoms of flu illness to employees;
• adopt practices that require sick employees/students to stay home;
• consider allowing employees to borrow against their sick leave to ensure they are non-infectious before returning to work;
• practice good hand hygiene, washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 15 seconds;
• identify a workplace coordinator, or committee, to be responsible for dealing with H1N1 flu issues and its impact on business operations;
• prepare business continuity plans to maintain operations during times of significant absenteeism in your company and with key business partners to ensure continuity of business operations if there are labor shortages, supply chain disruptions or other business interruptions;
• establish plans to communicate with your employees, contractors and key business partners that perform essential tasks, business functions, supplies and services;
• share your pandemic plans with community leaders; and
• establish an emergency communications plan, which includes identification of key contacts (with back-ups), chain of communications (including suppliers, vendors and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business, and, have updated employee emergency contact information.
For more information, call 847/699-2929 or visit www.asse.org.