As an employer, you have an important role in protecting employee health and safety and limiting the impact of a pandemic. It is important to work with community planners to integrate your pandemic plan into local and state planning, particularly if your operations are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure or key resources. Integration with local community planners allows you to access resources and information promptly to maintain operations and keep your employees safe.
Develop a Plan
Develop a plan that includes pandemic preparedness (www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/businesschecklist.html) and review it and conduct drills.
- Be aware of and review federal, state, and local health department pandemic plans. Incorporate appropriate actions from these plans.
- Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce.
- Work with your suppliers to ensure that you can continue to operate and provide services.
- Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees, thereby encouraging employees who have illness-related symptoms to stay home,so that they do not infect others. Recognize that employees with ill family members may need to stay home, too.
- Identify possible exposure and health risks to your employees. Are employees potentially in contact with sick people,such as in a hospital or grocery stores?
- Minimize exposure to fellow employees or the public. For example, will more of your employees work from home? This may require enhancement of technology and communications equipment.
- Identify business-essential positions and people required to sustain business functions and operations. Prepare to cross-train or develop ways to function in the absence of these positions. It is recommended that employers train three or more employees to be able to sustain business functions and operations and communicate the expectation for available employees to perform these functions.
- Plan for downsizing services,but also anticipate any scenario which may require a surge in services.
- Recognize that all employees will have non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings that should be reduced to the extent possible. Some employees will also have individual risk factors that should be considered as they plan how the organization will respond to a potential pandemic.
- Store items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies,and recommended personal protective equipment. Be aware of each product’s shelf life and storage conditions and incorporate product rotation (e.g., consume oldest supplies first) into your inventory management program.
- Make sure that your disaster plan protects and supports your employees, customers and the general public. Be aware of your employees’ concerns about pay, leave, safety and health.
- Develop policies and practices that distance employees from each other, customers and the general public. Consider practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees such as e-mail, websites,and teleconferences. Policies and practices that allow employees to work from home or to stagger their work shifts may be important as absenteeism rises.
- Organize and identify a central team of people to serve as a communication source so that your employees and customers can have accurate information during the pandemic.
- Work with your employees to address leave, pay, transportation, travel, childcare, absence,and other human resource issues.
- Provide your employees and customers in your workplace with easy access to supplies, such as soap, hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment, tissues, and office cleaning supplies.
- Provide training, education and informational material about business-essential job functions and employee health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any personal protective equipment to be used in the workplace. Be sure that informational material is available in a usable format for individuals with sensory disabilities and/or limited English proficiency. Encourage employees to take care of their health by eating right, getting plenty of rest and getting a seasonal flu vaccination.
- Work with your insurance companies, and state and local health agencies to provide information to employees and customers about medical care in the event of a pandemic.
- Assist employees in managing additional stressors related to the pandemic. These are likely to include distress related to personal or family illness, life disruption, grief related to loss of family, friends or coworkers, loss of routine support systems, and similar challenges. Assuring timely and accurate communication will also be important throughout the duration of the pandemic in decreasing fear or worry. Employers should provide opportunities for support, counseling, and mental health assessment and referral should these be necessary. If present, Employee Assistance Programs can offer training and provide resources and other guidance on mental health and resiliency before and during a pandemic.