Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Preventing swine flu at work: Prepare now

Thanks to the H1N1 flu virus, familiarly known as the swine flu, the upcoming fall flu season will be unlike anything the U.S. has experienced in recent history, and government officials are urging businesses to prepare for a possible widespread outbreak.

With the pandemic estimated to reach up to 2 billion people, three Cabinet secretaries met last month to announce new guidelines to help businesses plan for and respond to the upcoming flu season.

“One of the most important things that employers can do is to make sure their human resources and leave policies are flexible and follow public health guidance,’’ said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “If employees are sick, they need to be encouraged to stay home. If people begin to experience flu-like symptoms at work, they should be sent home and possibly encouraged to seek medical treatment.’’

Employers’ flu season plans should address key preventative measures including:
  • encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms to stay home from work,
  • operating with less in-house staff, and
  • having employees at higher risk for illness or serious medical complications from infection work from home.

Before the season gets into full swing, employers should take a look at the company’s sick leave policies and ensure employees understand them, according to the CDC. Employers may also want to consider adopting flexible hours for employees who need to care for sick family members or if a child’s school is closed.

Other suggestions include offering on-site flu vaccines, encouraging employees to get the H1N1 flu vaccine, limiting face-to-face meetings and business travel, and allowing employees to work from home.

“Keeping our nation’s workers safe is a top priority,” said Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, who participated in the announcement. “Faced with a renewed H1N1 challenge during the coming flu season, we are developing tools that will help ensure America’s workers stay healthy and our businesses remain viable.”

Every company will have a unique plan that fits their business needs, but the main goal should be protecting workers. Help prevent the spread of flu at your company by training workers how to keep themselves and their families safe.

Related posts:

Training is key to preventing the flu at work

Preventing the flu in the office, six simple steps

Keep your germs at home!

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