New Pandemic Flu Guidance for Healthcare Workers Released

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) has unveiled a new workplace safety and health guidance document that
will help employers in the healthcare industry and their employees prepare for
an influenza pandemic. Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance
for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers 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 having special importance to pandemic preparedness planners
and responders in the industry.

A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new
influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for
which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person-to-person, causes
serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in a
very short time.

It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how
severe it will be. Wherever and whenever a pandemic starts, everyone around the
world is at risk. Countries might, through measures such as border closures and
travel restrictions, delay arrival of the virus, but they cannot stop it.

An especially severe influenza pandemic could lead to high levels of illness,
death, social disruption, and economic loss. Everyday life would be disrupted
because so many people in so many places become seriously ill at the same time.
Impacts can range from school and business closings to the interruption of
basic services such as public transportation and food delivery.

An influenza pandemic is projected to have a global impact on morbidity and
mortality, thus requiring a sustained, large-scale response from the healthcare
community. A substantial percentage of the world's population will require some
form of medical care. Healthcare facilities can be overwhelmed, creating a
shortage of hospital staff, beds, ventilators and other supplies. Surge
capacity at non-traditional sites such as schools may need to be created to
cope with the demand.

It is expected that such an event will quickly overwhelm the healthcare system
locally, regionally, and nationally. An increased number of sick individuals
will seek healthcare services. In addition, the number of healthcare workers
available to respond to these increased demands will be reduced by illness
rates similar to pandemic influenza attack rates affecting the rest of the
population. Finally, healthcare workers and healthcare resources will also be
expected to continue to meet non-pandemic associated healthcare needs.

In order to mitigate the effects of an influenza pandemic on the healthcare
community, it is important to identify healthcare providers and recognize the
diversity of practice settings.

  • The delivery of healthcare services requires a broad range of employees, such
    as first responders, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, technicians and aides,
    building maintenance, security and administrative personnel, social workers,
    laboratory employees, food service, housekeeping, and mortuary personnel.
    Moreover, these employees can be found in a variety of workplace settings,
    including hospitals, chronic care facilities, outpatient clinics (e.g., medical
    and dental offices, schools, physical and rehabilitation therapy centers,
    health departments, occupational health clinics, and prisons), free-standing
    ambulatory care and surgical facilities, and emergency response settings.
  • The diversity among healthcare workers and their workplaces makes preparation
    and response to a pandemic influenza especially challenging. For example, not all
    employees in the same healthcare facility will have the same risk of acquiring
    influenza, not all individuals with the same job title will have the same risk
    of infection, and not all healthcare facilities will be at equal risk although
    all will be similarly susceptible. During an influenza pandemic, healthcare
    workers may be required to provide services in newly established healthcare
    facilities to accommodate patient overflow from traditional healthcare settings
    (e.g., convention centers, schools, and sports arenas).

    Consequently, the cornerstone of pandemic influenza preparedness and response
    is an assessment of risk and the development of effective policies and procedures
    tailored to the unique aspects of various healthcare settings.

Collaboration with state and federal partners is vital to ensure that
healthcare workers are adequately protected during an influenza pandemic. The
goal of this document is to help healthcare workers and employers prepare for
and respond to an influenza pandemic.

The guidance document is organized into four major sections:

  • Clinical background information on influenza

  • Infection control

  • Pandemic influenza preparedness

  • OSHA standards of special importance

Given the technical nature and breadth of information available in the
document, each section has been subdivided (see Table of Contents) in order to
allow readers to quickly focus on areas of interest.

The document also contains appendices which provide pandemic planners with
samples of infection control plans, examples of practical pandemic planning
tools and additional technical information. Topic areas include Internet
resources, communication tools, sample infection control programs, selftriage
and home care resources, diagnosis and treatment of staff during a pandemic,
planning and supply checklists and risk communication. This educational
material has been provided for informational purposes only and should be used
in conjunction with the entire document in order to ensure that healthcare
workers are adequately protected during a pandemic. OSHA does not recommend one
option over the many effective alternatives that exist.

More info

AplusA-online.de - Source: U.S. Department of Labor - Occupational Safety & Health Administration