What Employers Can Do to Protect Workers from Pandemic Influenza
During an influenza pandemic, transmission of the pandemic virus can be anticipated in the workplace, not only from patients to workers in healthcare settings, but also from customers and coworkers in general work settings. Employers can use a set of occupational safety and health controls referred to as the “hierarchy of controls” to reduce exposures to pandemic influenza in their workplaces.
The types of control measures, listed from most effective to least effective, that may be used to protect yourself, your workers and your customers are:
• Engineering controls;
• Administrative controls;
• Work practices; and
• Personal protective equipment (PPE). Most employers will use a combination of these control methods. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of measure when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness and cost. Engineering controls are those that involve making changes to the work environment to reduce work-related hazards. These types of controls are preferred over all others because they make permanent changes that reduce exposure to hazards and do not rely on worker or customer behavior.
By reducing a hazard in the workplace, engineering controls can be the most cost-effective solutions for employers to implement.
Examples include: • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
• Installing a drive-through window for customer service.
• Using specialized negative-pressure
ventilation for aerosol-generating procedures
in healthcare settings.
Administrative controls are those that modify
workers’ work schedules and tasks in ways that
minimize their exposure to workplace hazards.
• Developing policies that encourage ill workers to stay at home without fear of any reprisals.
• Discontinuing nonessential travel to locations having high prevalence of illness.
• Developing practices to minimize face-to-face contact between workers such as extended use of e-mail, websites and teleconferences. Where possible, encourage flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting or flexible work hours to reduce the number of workers who must be at the work site at one time or in one specific location.
• Relying on home delivery of goods and services to reduce the number of clients or customers who must visit your workplace.
• Developing emergency communications plans. Maintain a forum for answering workers’ concerns. Develop Internet-based communications, if feasible. Work practices are procedures for safe and proper work that are used to reduce the duration, frequency or intensity of exposure to a hazard. When defining safe work practice controls, it is a good idea to ask your workers for their suggestions, since they have firsthand experience with the tasks. These controls need to be understood and followed by managers, supervisors and workers.
Examples include: • Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
• Encouraging workers to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine (this helps to prevent illness from seasonal influenza strains that may continue to circulate).
• Providing workers with up-to-date education
and training on influenza risk factors, protective
behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors
(for example, cough etiquette; avoiding touching
eyes, nose and mouth; and proper care of PPE). For more info call Bill Stankiewicz or go to osha.gov
Be safe and be kind.
Savannah Supply Chain
www.beBee.com USA Brand Ambassador