CDC Issues Employer Guidance in Preparation for Flu Season
In an attempt to urge employers to prepare for the upcoming 2009-2010 flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new guidance to help employers prepare. The guidance was issued in anticipation of the spread of the seasonal flu and H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu.
Because the severity of a possible epidemic cannot accurately be predicted, the CDC recommends that "employers should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine pandemic influenza response plans if a potentially more serious outbreak of influenza evolves during the fall and winter." The CDC specifically stressed the importance of working with employees to reduce the spread of flu by urging those with flu-like symptoms and those with high risks of infection to telecommute. In addition, the CDC encourages employers to prepare for school closures and child care issues in the event of an outbreak. For the construction industry, this can be problematic since contracts are awarded and paid based on anticipated completion dates, and the possibility of reduced staff after a potential influenza outbreak may mean reduced production capacity.
Although construction employers are limited in what they can do to stop the spread of influenza, the CDC recommends nine action steps employers should take now in preparation for the upcoming flu season.
- Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan;
- Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;
- Have an understanding of your organization's normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.
- Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information;
- Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;
- Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close;
- Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them;
- Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts; and
- Add a "widget" or "button" to your company Web page or employee Web sites so employees can access the latest information on influenza: www.cdc.gov/widgets/ and www.cdc.gov/SocialMedia/Campaigns/H1N1/buttons.html.
For additional workplace resources and checklists, review the CDC's Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers as well as OSHA's Flu Pandemic Guide.
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