Preparing your business for the flu season: Here’s help

Is your business ready to deal with higher absenteeism rates this fall or winter? That may be the case even if the swine flu outbreak is no worse than it was this spring.

Reason: It’s possible your company will be dealing with employees who are ill due to swine and regular seasonal flu at the same time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued that warning along with updated recommendations for the upcoming flu season.

Important components of a workplace flu pandemic plan:

  • Be prepared to ensure business continuity. Identify essential functions in case of higher absentee rates. Cross-train employees to carry out these functions.
  • Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. This OSHA Web site can help companies determine what risks they face.
  • Review HR policies to make sure they’ll accommodate people who have the flu or have to care for family members who are sick. Don’t require doctor’s notes from workers with the flu.
  • Allow employees to stay home if they have flu symptoms. The CDC recommends workers return only when they’ve been fever-free (under 100°) without fever-reducing medicine for 24 hours.
  • Look into telecommuting to increase social distancing.
  • Plan to minimize exposure for employees who report to work. If the outbreak is more severe than this spring’s, the CDC recommends there be at least 6 feet of distance between employees at most times.
  • Set up authorities, triggers and procedures for activating and terminating your flu plan. Local health officials can help you make these decisions during an outbreak.
  • Contact local healthcare providers to set up flu shot vaccinations at your workplace. There will be separate vaccinations for regular seasonal flu and swine flu. It’s important employees get both.

Even before flu season starts, employers should encourage employees to have good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, and cleaning surfaces that are more likely to have frequent hand contact, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs.

The federal government’s flu Web site is www.flu.gov.

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