Special edition of the Advocate - April 30, 2009

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A Pandemic Seems Likely: Are You Ready?

At time of writing, the World Health Organization had raised its influenza pandemic alert level from phase 4 to phase 5, and had asked all countries to immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans.

If your firm does not have a pandemic preparedness plan in place, there’s still time, but you need to act swiftly. We can help.

Here is what you need to know to develop a plan and source up-to-date, current information on pandemic planning and on the current knowledge and thinking around prevention and workplace health and safety.

What employers should do now
  • Assess the workplace to see which workers are at particular risk of illness (for example, employees who have contact with the public or who have small children are at higher risk)
  • Decide what will be done if a quarantined employee insists on coming to work
  • Monitor employee health. Do not panic if an employee shows some symptoms
  • Keep a first aid kit on hand (including a non-mercury thermometer)
  • Make sure employees understand that they have the right to refuse work if they think working conditions are unsafe
  • Establish policy for staff travelling to an infected area
  • Establish telecommuting procedures so that employees can work at home in the event of a pandemic
  • Decide which jobs and services are essential to keep the business running
  • Delegate leadership responsibilities
  • Cross-train employees to do different jobs
  • Identify important business contacts for each employee so that someone else can take over in case of illness
  • Plan for the fact that resources and supplies needed to do business may be limited during a pandemic (including essential services such as water and power)
  • Have online services available for clients
If the WHO raises the alert to a level 5, you should:
  • Keep staff informed about the disease and procedures to follow;
  • Make sure everyone understands the circumstances under which quarantine is necessary and the length of the quarantine;
  • Provide paid leave for employees under quarantine;
  • Ensure that employees have access to medical services, if necessary;
  • Let employees know how their health benefits apply to the situation, and the requirements for extended leave due to illness;
  • Arrange for extra cleaning of the workplace;
  • Make sure employee health information is kept confidential;
  • Provide employees with masks, gloves, safety glasses, respirators, or other protective equipment if recommended by public health authorities. Face masks should be on hand for reception staff;
  • Keep informed about any legislative or policy changes that may affect workers or businesses.
Watch for these symptoms

People infected with the virus initially suffer flu-like symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, shortness of breath or loss of appetite. Some people also report runny nose or nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (Source: World Health Organization)

Help prevent contagion by emphasizing frequent hand-washing
  • Hands spread an estimated 80 percent of common infectious diseases like the common cold and flu. Hand-washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Good hand-washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases among both, children and adults.
  • Wash your hands BEFORE handling or eating foods or feeding others, brushing or flossing teeth, inserting or removing contact lenses, after treating wounds or cuts.
  • Wash your hands AFTER having any contact with a person who has influenza or his/her immediate environment, going to the toilet or changing a diaper, blowing your nose or wiping a child's nose, coughing or sneezing, handling garbage, and when returning home from a busy public place, such as your workplace or a mall.
  • Children should also wash their hands after playing with toys shared with other children.
  • For more information on hand washing techniques and other preventive measures visit: http://www.fightflu.ca/howdoyoufightflu-eng.html
You can trust these important links: Articles & Resource Links: Government Agencies OSSA Products & Services

  • Respiratory & Body Fluids Hazards

  • A comprehensive guide which provides a detailed discussion on the hazards of respiratory and body fluid hazards in the workplace.

     
     


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