Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has unveiled new safety and health guidance that will help healthcare workers and their employers prepare for a possible influenza pandemic. Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers (available at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA_pandemic_health.pdf) was released recently by the agency.
"During an influenza pandemic, the healthcare community will be on the frontline," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "This new guidance provides information and tools to help protect healthcare workers."
A comprehensive resource for healthcare planners and practitioners, the new guidance offers information and tools to assist the industry in preparing for and responding to an influenza pandemic. It includes technical information on infection control and industrial hygiene practices to reduce the risk of infection in healthcare settings; workplace preparations and planning issues; and OSHA standards that have special importance to pandemic preparedness planners and responders in the industry.
Specifically, the guidance provides a wide range of information and tools helpful to pandemic planners, including: Internet resources, communication tools, sample infection control programs, and self-triage and home care resources. It also offers how-to advice on diagnosis and treatment of staff during a pandemic, developing planning and supply checklists, and risk communication.
Under the President's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza: Implementation Plan, the Department of Labor was tasked with 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. In February, OSHA released its Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic, which provides general guidance for all types of workplaces; describes the differences among seasonal, avian and pandemic influenza; and presents information on the nature of a potential pandemic, how the virus is likely to spread and how exposure is likely to occur.
Should a pandemic occur, OSHA will furnish up-to-date information and guidance to the public through the www.pandemicflu.gov Web site.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.