OSHA releases fact sheet on protecting workers during a pandemic [US]

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has released a fact sheet on protecting workers during a pandemic. OSHA describes a pandemic as a global disease outbreak that can be caused by a variety of agents, including influenza and coronaviruses. During a pandemic, it is likely that workplaces will be a transmission spot for the disease. This fact sheet provides employers with guidance on how to minimize the threat of a pandemic to their workers.

 OSHA released a fact sheet on how to protect workers during a pandemic. During a pandemic, workplaces are likely to be places where the disease will be transmitted. Healthcare workers are not the only vulnerable workers – co-workers or the general public may transmit the disease in other workplaces.

OSHA recommends that employers ensure their workers understand several concepts, including: the differences between seasonal epidemics and global pandemics; which job activities may elevate their risk of infection; any available options for working remotely, or using a flexible leave policy; social distancing strategies; good hygiene and disinfection procedures; how to use available personal protective equipment (PPE); any medical services available to them; and how supervisors will provide pandemic-related updates.
OSHA believes employers should consider offering sick leave and flexible leave policies, as workers will be more likely to stay home if they are sick. By permitting employees to stay home while sick, employers can minimize the spread of the disease amongst their healthy employees.

Employees should be trained on infection controls, including the importance of avoiding close contact. Employers should ensure that there are sufficient supplies, such as soap, running water, tissues, hand sanitizers, and cleaning agents to ensure employees may practice good preventive hygiene. Providing frequent visual and verbal reminders to workers can improve the use of sound hygienic principles, reducing the rate of infection.

Employers may choose to modify the work environment or change work practices to provide additional protection for workers and clients. Physical barriers can be installed to minimize transmission vectors, while installing additional hand sanitizer dispensers can reduce the spread of the disease.

Finally, workers should be aware of the exposure risk level associated with their job duties. Employees who have minimal contact with the general public and other co-workers have a lower exposure risk, workers who frequently interact with the general public have a medium exposure risk, and healthcare workers have a very high exposure risk.

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Sources :  OSHA Fact Sheet, Protecting Workers during a Pandemic