Due to the possibility of a serious flu pandemic, the U.S. Government is asking business leaders to make response plans for a range of flu outbreak scenarios. For this flu season, predictions range from a moderate increase in flu-related absenteeism, to a full-blown influenza pandemic. The most up-to-date information regarding flu risk can be found online at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site; on the World Health Organization Web site; as well as on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Web site (refer to Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Influenza Season).
For both business and public health reasons, it is critical for employers to be ready for the possibility of a pandemic. A pandemic might involve your clients as well as your workforce, as employers face the potential for supply chain disruptions, workforce shortages, and even panic among employees and their family members.
Business experts and government officials have developed the following guidelines to help business leaders coordinate plans in the event of a pandemic:
Identify a Team
Name a pandemic coordinator or team with specific responsibilities for preparing and response planning. Go over emergency preparedness plans with your identified team members. Remember that your planning process needs to remain fluid and dependent on circumstances, not a fixed or finite plan.
Communicate with Your Employees
Have emergency communication systems and plans in place. Communicate pandemic preparedness and response plans to employees and, if necessary, to your customers and suppliers.
Educate your employees on flu preparedness. By involving employees, they might feel less anxious and more in control. Stress the importance of the message that employees should stay home when they are sick.
Prepare for Widespread Absenteeism
Create a plan for how critical functions will be carried out elsewhere if work sites must be closed temporarily. Review health care, disability, and leave policies with employees. So that tasks can be handled by more than one person, provide cross-training to employees. Whenever possible, plan to have employees work remotely. Create policies for reducing travel to affected geographic areas.
Immunize and Sanitize
Set up immunization clinics for your workforce through your EAP or insurer. Encourage employees to practice good hygiene by washing hands, using sanitizers, and covering their mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It is also recommended to avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth, as this is a good way to spread germs.