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How Employers Should Respond to the Swine Flu Outbreak

Date: 4.28.2009

With the increasing number of swine flu cases reported in the United States and Mexico, and the media attention surrounding the outbreak, many of your employees may have concerns regarding their potential for exposure to the flu at work and the steps you are taking to ensure their well-being.  Our Workplace Safety Compliance Practice Group suggests the following steps:

  1. Communicate to your employees that you are following the situation closely and will take all necessary steps to ensure their safety and health.
  2. Review the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration daily for updates on steps to take during the outbreak. 
  3. Request that employees report to their supervisors promptly if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.  In turn, supervisors should be instructed to notify Human Resources immediately upon such a report.
  4. Review your leave and telecommuting policies and adjust them, if necessary, to encourage employees to stay at home if they experience flu-like symptoms.  
  5. Remind employees of the need to wash hands frequently and to practice other good hygiene practices.
  6. Communicate with your cleaning services about additional steps they may be able to take to further sanitize your worksites.
  7. Discontinue nonessential travel to Mexico and other locations the CDC identifies as having high illness transmission rates.
  8. If you have Employee Assistance Programs, remind employees that these services are available to help them cope with additional stress that might result from the swine flu outbreak.

On April 28, OSHA also placed on its website a special link on swine flu that references its “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic” (available at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html).  OSHA lists a number of measures to protect employees in the event of a flu pandemic.  In addition, OSHA recommends that employers develop pandemic flu plans specifically tailored to the needs of their worksites.

Members of our Workplace Safety Compliance Practice Group can assist with any questions you may have or assistance you may need in developing a plan specific to your workplace needs.