OSHA Unveils Pandemic Flu Guidance

OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. on Feb. 6 unveiled new guidance that details ways employers and employees can prepare for an influenza pandemic.

"Proper planning and preparation now will enable employers to better protect their employees and lessen the impact of a pandemic on their operations, workforce and the American economy," Foulke said during a media conference call.

Developed in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), OSHA's guidance document provides general guidance for all types of workplaces. The guidance document describes the differences between seasonal, avian and pandemic influenza. It also presents information on the nature of a potential pandemic, how the virus is likely to spread and how exposure is likely to occur.

OSHA's Role Is Important

In May 2006, the White House released the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan, which identifies the critical steps needed to protect the public against the threat of pandemic influenza.

As part of the federal government's role in pandemic flu preparedness and response, the Department of Labor is responsible for promoting the health, safety and welfare of employees and providing guidance to assist employers in protecting the health and safety of employees during a pandemic flu. Within the Labor Department, OSHA is responsible for providing guidance that details steps that employers and employees can take to prepare themselves for a flu pandemic, Foulke remarked.

On Feb. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in conjunction with other federal agencies and public and private health partners, released guidance on community planning strategies that state and local community decision-makers, as well as individuals, should consider based on the severity of an influenza pandemic.

According to Foulke, OSHA's new guidance will complement the new CDC guidelines as it "will limit the spread of the pandemic, prevent disease and death, lessen the impact of the economy and keep society functioning."

Links

To view OSHA's Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic, go to the OSHA Web site. The guidance document also is available at http://www.pandemicflu.gov.

The Feb. 6 OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS Webcast "Are You Prepared for Pandemic Flu?" provides additional information on the subject. To view and listen to an archived Webcast, click here.

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