Do not rely on vaccination alone to prevent infection in every employee as this may not be adequate to prevent the spread of infection. Additional steps need to be taken by employer to prevent swine flu infection by implementing a written and site-specific infection control program. This program should include;
• Risk of swine flu in workers or exposure assessment
• Immunization and drugs review
• Safe work procedures and personal hygiene
• Engineering controls in work place (such as changes in workplace to make it safer)
• Medical and personal leave policies
• Appropriate cleaning and disinfection of office premises
• Identification and isolation of infected workers
Vaccination: Encourage workers to be vaccinated with H1N1 flu shot as this is the best way for protection (when the vaccine becomes available).
Safe work procedures and personal hygiene: These practices should be encouraged in offices which include:
o Frequent hand washing with soap and water. If soap and water are not available use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
o Cough etiquette such as use tissues to cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing and if tissue is not available coughing into elbow
o Maintaining a distance of 6 feet with co-workers, customers and clients, and the general public
o Avoiding the practice of sharing desks or other office equipment with co-workers
o Employees should be encouraged to stay at home for at least 24 hours after their fever resolves (i.e. there are no signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications).
Engineering controls in work place to limit spread of swine flu infection: Consider measures to increase ventilation in work place as this helps to maintain fresh air supply. Install exhausts, this serves to remove and decrease the amount of infectious airborne particles.
Medical and personal leave policies: To ensure that your sick employees do not report to work, have leave policies that are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and make your employees aware of these policies. Employees should not face disciplinary action for not reporting for work if they have flu like illness.
Cleaning and disinfection of office premises: As H1N1 virus can remain alive for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, cleaning of all surfaces (such as door handles, workstations, countertops, doorknobs and computer keyboards) often to remove the germs with a disinfectant should be followed.
Identification and isolation of infected workers: Vigilantly watch for employees with symptoms of swine flu and take appropriate measures to isolate them.
Besides all these, it is important to educate employees regarding the signs and symptoms of flu, its modes of transmission, and conditions which increase the risk of exposure. To avoid spreading the infection, advice workers not to report to work and interact with others if they have flu like illness (fever, cough or sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea). Sick employees will be out for about 3 to 5 days in most cases, even after receiving antiviral medications.
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