Special Topics in Safety Management

H1N1: Planning for the Flu Season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges employers to review and revise pandemic plans in light of the current H1N1 influenza outbreak, taking into account the extent and severity of disease in your community.

Your workplace may have already been affected this past spring and summer by outbreaks of H1N1 flu. The CDC anticipates that more workplaces will be affected by flu—both H1N1 and seasonal—as we head into flu season. There’s also the risk that communities and workplaces may be more severely affected than previously, reflecting the wider transmission and possibly greater impact of flu viruses.

In response to the anticipated spread of H1N1 and the advent of seasonal flu, CDC has revised its recommendations to assist businesses of all sizes.

Response Strategies

You have to balance a variety of objectives when developing pandemic plans and deciding how best to decrease the spread and impact of flu in your workplace.

For example, the objectives you consider may include one or more of the following:

  • Reducing transmission throughout your workforce
  • Protecting employees who are at increased risk of flu-related complications from getting infected with influenza
  • Maintaining business operations
  • Minimizing adverse effects on other entities in your supply chain

Expect to see a wide range of disease patterns across the country, says CDC, and base your strategies and response to flu outbreaks on location-specific information from local and state public health authorities.

The threat of a flu pandemic can have a devastating impact on your company and your employees. Pandemic awareness training is essential, and BLR’s new Pandemic Flu: How to Prevent and Respond PowerPoint® presentation allows you to conduct a self-paced audio training session that gives workers critical guidance without your having to spend hours on research, preparation, or presentation. Get the details.

Key Indicators

Some of the key indicators that should be used when making decisions about appropriate responses include:

  • Reducing transmission throughout your workforce
  • Protecting employees who are at increased risk of flu-related complications from getting infected with influenza
  • Disease severity (hospitalization and death rates) in the community where your business is located
  • Extent of disease (number of people who are sick) in the community
  • Amount of absenteeism in your business or organization
  • Impact of disease on employees who are vulnerable and at higher risk (for example, pregnant women and workers with certain chronic medical conditions)
  • Other factors that may affect employees’ ability to get to work, such as school dismissals or closures due to high levels of illness

Your pandemic plan should anticipate your ability to obtain updated information on these indicators from state and local health departments in each community where you do business so that you can respond quickly to the changing reality on the ground.

If you have more than one business location, CDC encourages you to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in your pandemic plan based on conditions in their locality.

BLR’s Pandemic Flu: How to Prevent and Respond teaches employees how to prevent the spread of infection and how to deal with pandemic flu at work and at home. Find out more.

Actions You Should Take Now

Review or establish a flexible pandemic plan, and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.

  • Reducing transmission throughout your workforce
  • Protecting employees who are at increased risk of flu-related complications from getting infected with influenza
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season.
  • Have an understanding of your organization’s normal seasonal absenteeism rates, and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.
  • Engage state and local health departments to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information.
  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.
  • Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or childcare programs close.
  • Share your pandemic flu plan with employees, and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.
  • Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts.
  • Add a “widget” or “button” to your company Web page or employee website so that employees can access the latest information on influenza (see www.cdc.gov/widgets/ and www.cdc.gov/SocialMedia/Campaigns/H1N1/buttons.html for suggestions).

In tomorrow’s Advisor we’ll talk more about what you can do in the coming months to minimize the impact of the flu on your workplace.

Other Recent Articles on Safety Management
Planning for Pandemic Critical, CDC Says
Does Your Confined Spaces Program Meet OSHA Requirements?
Answers to Your Questions about Confined Spaces
Safety and Your Cell Phone Policy
Cell Phones? Passengers? Which Is More Distracting?


1 thought on “H1N1: Planning for the Flu Season”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.