How SESCO Clients Should Respond to the Swine Flu Outbreak

April 30, 2009

Today, April 30th, the CDC reports additional confirmed infections, hospitalizations and unfortunately, the nation's first fatality from this flu outbreak. The CDC is suggesting that a pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be emerging in the U.S. Most citizens will not have immunity to this new virus and, as it continues to spread, more cases are expected in the coming days and weeks.

Initial indications (although premature) are the outbreak will be a "mild" virus through the summer months due to heat. The concern is that when flu season hits in the fall and winter that the swine flu will be much more severe.

So what should SESCO clients do now?

As with any good organization, communicate, communicate, communicate. Re-ensure employees that your management team is monitoring the potential effects upon the workplace.

Review the CDC's (Center for Disease Control) and OSHA websites for updates.

Request that employees report to their supervisors immediately if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. Subsequently, request employees to go home and stay home while sick.

Post in washrooms, bathrooms, break rooms and lunch areas to wash hands frequently and to practice good hygiene. This includes covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding human contact in the workplace and practicing good housekeeping by cleaning up after themselves.

Ensure bathrooms are equipped with anti-bacterial soaps and alcohol cleansing products. Place alcohol cleansing products in reception areas, bathrooms, break rooms, lunch areas, conference rooms and other public locations.

Encourage staff to wipe down phones at least twice a day with alcohol cleaning products — especially for phones that are available to the general employee population and/or public.

Communicate with cleaning personnel or services about additional cleaning that they may be able to provide to sanitize work areas — especially within healthcare and retail settings.

Should the outbreak continue to spread, consider temporarily altering attendance and/or sick leave policies so that employees feel that they don't have to show up to work or otherwise be penalized when they are sick. Of course, there will be abuse of such policies, so communication and training, particularly with supervisors, is appropriate.

You may wish to visit "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic" http://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html.

SESCO will continue to monitor the progression of this flu virus and communicate developments with our valued clients.