Posted On: May 22, 2009 by Steven J. Malman

Unions to OSHA: Protect Health Care Workers from the Swine Flu

A number of worker unions are calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect employees—especially health care workers—from the swine flu by enforcing specific safety protections. At least 82 of the 5,000 probable and confirmed swine flu cases in the US involve health care workers and there is concern that the virus is still spreading.

In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario noted that emergency responders, health care workers, and other workers that come into contact with people carrying the H1N1 virus are at high risk of also getting sick while on the job. Although OSHA and the CDC issued guidelines earlier this spring on how to protect workers from the swine flu—followed by interim guidelines directed at health care workers—Seminario says the guidelines are not being followed. She says a compliance directive or a hazard alert needs to be issued to address the swine flu-related hazards that workers in the healthcare industry face and the need for employers to protect their employees so they don't sustain this work-related illness.

The AFL-CIO offers its own recommendations on how employers can protect health care workers from the pandemic flu virus:

• Establish an infection control program for workers in hospitals and clinics.
• Seek and implement ways to control exposure to the virus.
• Make sure workers have easy access to personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and respirators.
• Educate workers about the swine flu, its symptoms, how it spreads, and how to control the infection.
• Train workers on ways they can protect themselves and prevent the virus from spreading.
• Enforce personal hygiene policies.
• Set up isolation units for swine flu patients so that other patients are not exposed to them.
• Select the specific health care workers who will treat your swine flu patients.
• Send home any health care workers that you think may have the swine flu.

If you have the swine flu because you were exposed to the virus while working, you are likely entitled to Illinois workers’ compensation benefits.

Unions Urge OSHA to Enforce Swine Flu Worker Protections, BlogAFLCIO.org, May 19, 2009

Protecting Health Care Workers During Pandemic Flu, AFLCIO.org (PDF)


Related Web Resources:
Swine Flu, CDC

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic, OSHA


Contact our Chicago workers’ compensation law firm about your case.

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