Injuries and Illness

Ebola. What can employers do?

With cases of Ebola happening in the United States and leading the news, employers may be wondering what they can do to prevent the disease in their workplaces. The federal government and some states are issuing guidance to help reduce the chances of transmission of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, from affecting their workers.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed targeted Ebola prevention and control recommendations for these categories of employees: healthcare workers, laboratory workers, airline workers, and humanitarian workers.

OSHA has an Ebola guidance webpage that specifically addresses Ebola, as well as a webpage with information directed at healthcare workers. The agency also has a webpage devoted to viral hemorrhagic fevers, of which Ebola is one. The government also has a pandemic emergency planning checklist for businesses that, while addressing influenza, is also useful in planning for other contagious diseases.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control has issued a Health Care Facility Preparedness Checklist for Ebola Virus Disease. While it is aimed primarily at healthcare facilities, the suggestions would be of help to other employers.

Even companies at little risk should address their emergency plans, especially those addressing discharges of bloodborne pathogens and other bodily fluids, which can occur in any workplace. It is prudent to also review your policies and plans regarding emergency communication with employees and facility closings and quarantines.

Note that preventative measures do not have to be elaborate; encouraging workers to adopt proper hand hygiene and providing the supplies needed is the best front line defense an employer can take. [See Prevent spread of new viruses through hand hygiene] Also, work with your facilities department or cleaning contractor to ensure that common-use surfaces are cleaned thoroughly and often.

Learn more about Ebola at work, including a quote from Safety.BLR.com’s Managing Editor, Dave Galt, in the NBC news story, “Employers Scramble to Address Ebola Concerns.”

Learn more about OSHA and ADA responsibilities on the HR.BLR.com article here: “Ebola in the workplace—what employers should know”