AVIAN INFLUENZA / BIRD FLU - WORKPLACE IMPLICATIONS
Avian Influenza (or 'Bird Flu') is potentially a major occupational safety and health issue. Like all pandemics, should it materialize, it could have serious implications in terms of the health and safety of employees and staff within the workplace. It is important therefore that these issues are examined and that a strategy is in place to manage them.
THE FIRST STEPS
The initial steps should include basic orientation: study of background information to obtain a working understanding of the virus. This is important to enable a rational response, and of course to more readily dissect media coverage to identify the facts.
Creation of a mitigation plan/manual is also essential. This should embrace both the continuity of the operation ('business continuity planning') and of course the safety and well being of employees.
For many organizations teleworking will be a major factor within this planning phase: allowing employees to work from home, and thus reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. It is therefore important that the principles of teleworking are properly explored, and that if necessary, the basic infrastructure to support this is prepared.
Equally, briefing for employees themselves should be prepared, and perhaps a generic personal mitigation plan circulated (at the appropriate time).
To support these initiatives, it is important that set of policies is produced and adopted. These should be designed to govern the situation should the need arise. They should cover issues as diverse as regulatory compliance tracking and health and psychological counseling, and should be signed off at the highest level.
It is recommended that all these issues are examined and considered at the earliest opportunity. The timescale of adoption of the various phases can be variable, as it will be dependent upon events, but initial high level planning should certainly be undertaken.
A toolkit has recently been published designed to specifically assist organization with respect to planning a rational response to this potential pandemic. The Avian Influenza Continuity Kit contains a range of support resources and documents, including: information of the virus itself, a full set of draft policies, management presentations, templates, forms and a personal plan for employees.
For more information see the kit dedicated website:
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Business Continuity Kit