AZ SCF - What Employers Can Do Now to Fight Influenza at Work
Phoenix, AZ ( WorkersCompensation.com) - Arizona has reached a widespread influenza status, the highest level for flu activity recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The single best way to prevent the spread of flu is to get a flu vaccine, but employers can also take these effective steps to mitigate the impact of flu on workers:
- When a worker gets sick with flu or flu-like illness, encourage them to stay home until at least 24 hours after the fever has gone away without the use of fever-reducing medications. Think about allowing workers to telecommute to get work done without coming in contact with co-workers and spreading sickness.
- Actively promote good hand-washing techniques. Employees should use soap and water, especially before eating, after coughing or sneezing and after using the toilet. If soap and water aren't available, offer workers a supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Remind workers to cough or sneeze into a tissue or shirtsleeve, rather than the palms of their hands, and to throw away used tissues.
When influenza impacts business
Employers who seek to minimize the impact of flu on their workforces may want to take these steps, which are part of the Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist available at FLU.gov:
- Plan for the impact of a flu pandemic on your business
- Determine a strategy for the pandemic's impact on your employees and customers
- Establish policies to be used during a pandemic
- Allocate resources to protect your employees and customers during a pandemic
- Communicate to and educate your employees
- Coordinate with external organizations and help your community
The CDC estimates that flu costs businesses $10.4 billion in employee hospitalization and outpatient visits. Each flu season, which typically lasts from October through May, nearly 111 million workdays are lost because of the flu. This amount of time equals an estimated $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends all employers properly inform workers of the benefits of the flu vaccine, including encouraging them to get the vaccination; however, employers may specifically require workers to take vaccines even though it is not an OSHA requirement. Employees who refuse a vaccination because of medical reasons may be protected under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health act of 1971.
Off-site community influenza vaccinations
Businesses have the option to support flu shot clinics away from the workplace at participating pharmacies and clinics. The CDC recommends using promotional flyers to inform workers about community flu shot events and have a more flexible work schedule for the employees who receive a flu shot. Employers may also distribute flu and vaccination fact sheets to employees to take home to their families.
SCF Arizona provides online flu prevention tips as well as safety seminars to prevent pandemics from affecting the workplace. Small business employers also will find relevant content at SCF's blog, SafeAtWorkAZ.com, which covers workplace safety tips, workers' compensation and HR issues