• Differences between seasonal epidemics and worldwide pandemic disease outbreaks;
• Which job activities may put them at risk for exposure to sources of infection;
• What options may be available for working remotely, or utilizing an employer’s flexible leave policy when they are sick;
• Social distancing strategies, including avoiding close physical contact (e.g., shaking hands) and large gatherings of people;
• Good hygiene and appropriate disinfection procedures;
• What personal protective equipment (PPE) is available, and how to wear, use, clean and store it properly;
• What medical services (e.g., vaccination, post- exposure medication) may be available to them; and
• How supervisors will provide updated pandemic-related communications, and where to direct their questions.
Employers may consider providing sick leave so that workers may stay home if they are sick. Flexible leave policies help stop the spread of disease, including to healthy workers.
✓ Consistently practice social distancing.
✓ Cover coughs and sneezes.
✓ Maintain hand hygiene.
✓ Clean surfaces frequently.
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, employers should provide worker training on infection controls, including the importance of avoiding close contact (within 6 feet) with others. Employers should provide adequate
supplies and ready access to soap and running water, tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and cleaning agents. Some worksites may need PPE (e.g., gloves, face shields, and respirators). Frequent visual and verbal reminders to workers can improve compliance with hand hygiene practices and thus reduce rates of infection.
Handwashing posters are available from the CDC: www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing.
Employers may modify the work environment and/or change work practices to provide additional protection to workers and clients. For example, employers may install physical barriers (e.g., clear plastic sneeze guards), conduct business in a different manner (e.g., use drive-through service windows, implement telework arrangements), improve ventilation (e.g., install high-efficiency air fi ters, increase ventilation rates), install additional hand sanitizer dispensers, provide facial tissues, and have workers use PPE. Employers should select equipment, such as surgical masks and respirators as described below, that will protect workers against infectious diseases to which they may be exposed.
For additional information, see OSHA’s Fact Sheet “Respiratory Infection Control: Respirators versus Surgical Masks” at www.osha.gov/ Publications/respirators-vs-surgicalmasks- factsheet.pdf.
Depending on the pandemic, a vaccine may or may not be available to protect people from illness. If available, employers may offer appropriate vaccines to workers to reduce the number of those at risk for infection in their workplace.
Workers should be aware of the exposure risk level associated with their job duties. In addition, a pandemic may disproportionately affect people in certain age groups or with specific health histories. Workers with job-related exposure to infections who voluntarily disclose personal health risks should be considered
for job accommodations and/or additional protective measures, e.g., use of PPE.
Higher risk work setting
include those healthcare workplaces where: infected patients may congregate; clinical specimens are handled or transported; or materials contaminated with blood or infectious wastes are handled. These settings warrant: use of physical barriers to control the spread of infectious disease; worker and client management to promote social distancing; and adequate and appropriate
PPE, hygiene and cleaning supplies. Additional information, including an OSHA Fact Sheet on exposure risks in healthcare workplaces, can be found on OSHA’s Publications page: www.osha. gov/publications. Employers and workers can also learn about preparedness for pandemics and other events at OSHA’s Emergency Preparedness and Response page: www.osha. gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness.
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems. To locate the OSHA On-site Consultation Program nearest you, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov/consultation.