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Friday, August 21, 2009

Swine Flu: Managing the Workplace


Swine Flu: Managing the Workplace
By Tommy Eden, Attorney
Alabama@Work
reprint O&A News 8-23-09
U.S. health officials declared earlier this week a public health emergency due to the spread of H1N1 (Swine) Flu, the World Health Organization has raised the influenza pandemic alert and we now have several cases reported locally. As a practical matter every Alabama employer should do the following: provide antibacterial hand sanitizers, frequently clean common surfaces (door knobs, coffee pot, etc.), be prepared to voluntarily extend your time-off policies, encourage contagious employees to stay home, allow remote work from home if possible and curtail business travel. All employers must be prepared to address employee concerns about the illness and one way to do that is on Monday to post a notice similar to the one below:
NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES REGARDING H1N1 (SWINE) FLU OUTBREAK
The recent outbreaks of swine flu have been widely covered in the media. You may be wondering what you can do. There are several precautions each of us can take to reduce the spread of illness, including swine flu, at work. If you develop flu-like symptoms, please do not come to work until you are fully recovered in order to keep others from getting sick, and follow company policies for providing notice of your absence. You may find the following Q & A helpful.
How do you catch swine flu?
Through contact with a person with swine flu. Human-to-human spread of swine flu has been documented and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with H1N1 influenza virus should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these steps to protect your health:
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
· Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
· Avoid close contact with sick people.
We are committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Together, we can take significant steps to minimize illness at our workplace. For more information please visit: http://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html or www.flu.gov

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com