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Utah Swine Flu Plan

Posted by Tamara

Every employer in Utah should have a swine flu plan in place.

During a pandemic (a global epidemic) the majority of businesses could suffer staffing shortages because employees are out sick. If schools close, up to an additional 25% of employees could be away from work, because they have no one to watch their children.

Public gathering places, such as theaters, malls and restaurants would most likely be deserted. People would avoid crowded places in hopes of avoiding being infected with the disease. In some cases, such as in Mexico recently, the government could order these establishments to close. The president in Mexico mandated that restaurants close or offer only take-out service.

Other Utah businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals would most like be overwhelmed by the surge of customers and patients.

For these reasons, OSHA wants employers in Utah and in the rest of the United States to implement a plan for a global influenza epidemic now, just as they have in the past for other types of emergencies.

For 5 years, OSHA has been recommending that Utah employers take this step. Many companies did not pay attention until the recent outbreak of Influenza 2009 H1N1 Flu, or the Swine Flu.

A common sense step in helping to manage a pandemic is to demand sick workers stay at home. Employees not affected should keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other coworkers. Affected workers can wear masks to keep from spreading the disease. The traditional surgical masks break up droplets of moisture the worker exhales, thereby limiting the spread of germs.

Unfortunately, traditional surgical masks do not prevent the wearer from catching the disease. For that, employees should wear an NIOSH-approved N95 Respirator. This mask seals to the face and prevents the majority of germs, including the influenza virus from getting in.

To assist employers with their emergency influenza plans OSHA released a 47-page guide, Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic. This guide suggests measures to span the spectrum: from having sufficient tissues, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and drinking water on hand to providing masks for workers.


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