Flu season is upon us and preparation is the key to ensuring your business is protected. Each year, on average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population get the flu. Not only will this most likely impact your employees, it could impact you directly.
While it may seem extreme, over preparing is the best way to ensure your business is protected. Having a Pandemic Flu Policy in place will ensure you are WELL prepared when ⅓ of your call center is home sick. The basics of a Pandemic Flu Policy include procedures that are not only usefully during a worldwide outbreak of the flu, but also for moderate outbreaks in your local area. The basics of a policy should include:
- Identification of Essential Personnel This is a list of employees you have identified AND designated as essential employees whose jobs are vitally important to your continued operation in emergencies. An Essential Personnel Policy is a beneficial policy to have in place for ALL emergencies. It ensures everyone is aware of your expectations.
- Remote Work Locations It is possible that State or Federal agencies may close roads or public transportation, having your policy in writing during these times will be critical.
- Infection-Control Measures Help your employees stay healthy and avoid the spread of infection.
- Employee Leave and Pay Ensure that your FMLA, ADA and Personal Leave policies are up to date. You may want to consider an additional leave or pay policy during extreme outbreaks.
- Business Travel If travel is an integral part of your business, you may want to consider suspending travel, or requiring travel authorizations, during an outbreak to avoid spreading disease.
- Emergency Contact Information and Communication Communication is essential. Making it clear to employees how to find and obtain information, as well as how to update their personal contact information is key.
Are you prepared for employees calling out sick?
Do you have a plan in place for work coverage?
Are you working with your employee population to help them fight the flu?
To help avoid contributing to the estimated $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses and $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually due to the flu, it is important to take some precautionary steps. Some of OSHA’s top recommendations for prevention include:
- Get vaccinated! Vaccination is the most important way to prevent the spread of the flu.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve(s). Throw tissues into a “no-touch” wastebasket.
- Keep frequently touched common surfaces (e.g., telephones, computer equipment, etc.) clean.
- Try not to use a coworker’s phone, desk, office, computer, or other work tools and equipment. If you must use a coworker’s equipment, consider cleaning it first with a disinfectant.
- Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with coworkers and others who may be ill.