With our close proximity to Mexico and the outbreak of reported swine flu infections in that country, Texas employers have a greater need to prepare their workforces for a swine flu pandemic. There are now reported cases of swine flu in Fort Worth, Richardson, and Guadalupe County (near San Antonio). Additionally, the World Health Organization’s recent increase in the pandemic alert level from phase 3 to phase 4 suggests that employer preparation of the workplace is prudent.
There is a great deal of public information available to employers that desire to prepare for and deal with an influenza pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service has a full web page dedicated to workplace planning for a pandemic outbreak. OSHA also has guidance on preparing the workplace for an influenza pandemic. The IFMA Foundation also has a Pandemic Preparedness Manual that contains specific steps for preparing a business continuity program designed to insure that business operations are not substantially disrupted during a disaster or crisis.
Suggestions for Employers.
- Discourage nonessential business or recreational travel to Mexico and other high risk areas;
- Make sure employees recognize the signs and symptoms of swine flu;
- Instruct employees on influenza avoidance behaviors;
- Discourage sick employees from coming to work;
- Identify and designate "essential personnel" for the organization as key roles in the event nonessential personnel need to be told to stay home;
- Prepare a Business Continuity Plan.
These simple suggestions may help employers minimize the effects of this potential pandemic and better weather the consequences if the pandemic becomes more widespread.