U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA Unveils New Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for Influenza Pandemic

Feb 06, 2007, 00:00 ET from U.S. Department of Labor

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today unveiled new workplace safety and health guidance that will help employers prepare for an influenza pandemic.     Developed in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic" provides general guidance for all types of workplaces; describes the differences between 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.     Under the president's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan, the Labor Department is responsible for 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 flu.     "In anticipation of a flu pandemic, our top priority is protecting the safety and health of America's working men and women," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "Employers and employees should use this guidance to help identify risk levels and implement appropriate control measures to prevent illness in the workplace."     To help employers determine appropriate workplace practices and precautions, the guidance divides workplaces and work operations into four risk zones, according to the likelihood of employees' occupational exposure to pandemic influenza. Recommendations for employee protection are presented for each of the four levels of anticipated risk and include engineering controls, work practices and use of personal protective equipment such as respirators and surgical masks and their relative value in protecting employees.     The Labor Department/HHS guidance also encourages employers to prepare a plan to deal with a depleted workforce during a pandemic. In addition, the guidance includes links to helpful Web sites with additional information and a list of technical articles and resources, including a history on flu pandemics, symptoms and outcomes of various strains of the influenza and details on the transmission of the virus.     It is important to note that workplace safety and health guidance may evolve and change over time as new information becomes available. For instance, the characteristics of the specific strain of influenza virus ultimately responsible for the pandemic may affect the way in which the disease is spread and therefore additional guidance would be tailored to that information. Up-to-date information and guidance is available to employers, employees and the general public through http://www.pandemicflu.gov, the federal government's Web site for information regarding pandemic flu.     Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace 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. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.     U.S. Labor Department releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.     CONTACT: Sharon Worthy, +1-202-693-4676, or David Sims, +1-202-693-1898, both of U.S. Department of Labor  

SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor