Reducing the impact of swine flu in the workplace

With the current media onslaught of “swine flu” most of us have been left feeling just a little confused as to how worried we should be,  what practical steps should be taken to reduce the risk of us contracting the illness and how businesses can reduce the risk to their employees.

The Business Advisory Network for Flu (BANF) has been set up by the Cabinet Office to help businesses prepare for the effects of swine flu. They have issued a document detailing the planning assumptions that businesses can make to prepare for the impacts of Swine flu.

As a quick summary:

  •  The first wave of swine flu should happen between August and November 2009 – around 30% of the public will be infected.
  •  The first wave should peak during September.
  •  Up to 12% of the workforce could be off work at one time either because they are sick themselves or caring for sick children.
  •  They estimate an average absence of 7 working days for those without complications, 10 working days for those with complications, and some allowance for those at home caring for ill children. This estimate is for absence over and above “normal” holiday leave.

From these projections we can see that there is a large potential impact for all employees and businesses, so how can we limit the number of people in a business that contract the disease?

What can I do to prevent infection from swine flu as an individual?

  •  A vaccine for H1N1 is being developed and may be available in the UK this month. However the NHS says it may be next year before everyone can be immunised.
  •  You should avoid having close contact with people who do not appear well and who have fever and cough.
    •  Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
      •   Use a tissue whenever possible and dispose of it promptly.
        •  Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or a sanitiser gel to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to your face or to other people.
        • Clean hard surfaces like door handles frequently using a normal cleaning product.
        • Keep keyboards, desks and screens clean with computer cleaning accessories.

What can I do to prevent infection from swine flu as an employer?

Make sure that all of your staff are fully informed about the preventive  measures that can and should be taken – there is a downloadable PDF leaflet here that you could email around to staff.
Ask staff who are showing signs of swine flu symptoms to stay off work in order to prevent the spread of germs.

Ensure that cleaners are doing a more thorough job than normal and that your staff are also cleaning communal office equipment after use.

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