- Safety and Health Topics
- Pandemic Influenza
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population; begins to cause serious illness; and then spreads easily person-to-person worldwide. A worldwide influenza pandemic could have a major effect on the global economy, including travel, trade, tourism, food, consumption and eventually, investment and financial markets. Planning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic's impact.
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 cannot stop it.
During a pandemic, transmission can be anticipated in the workplace, not only from patient to workers in health care settings, but also among co-workers in general work settings. A pandemic would cause 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 could range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services such as public transportation and food delivery.
Education and outreach are critical to preparing for a pandemic. Understanding what a pandemic is, what needs to be done at all levels to prepare for pandemic influenza, and what could happen during a pandemic helps us make informed decisions both as individuals and as a nation. Should a pandemic occur the public must be able to depend on its government to provide scientifically sound public health information quickly, openly and dependably. For additional information on pandemic influenza, see One-stop access to U.S. government avian and pandemic flu information.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.
- Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (PDF). OSHA Publication 3327, (2007). Also available in Spanish*.
- Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers (PDF). OSHA Publication 3328, (2007).
- How to Protect Yourself in the Workplace during a Pandemic (PDF). OSHA QuickCard™ (Publication 3365), (2009).
- What Employers Can Do to Protect Workers from Pandemic Influenza (PDF). OSHA Fact Sheet, (May 2009).
- Healthcare Workplaces Classified as Very High or High Exposure Risk for Pandemic Influenza What to do to protect workers (PDF). OSHA Fact Sheet, (May 2009).
- Protect Yourself: Pandemic Flu Respiratory Protection (PDF). OSHA QuickCard™, (Publication 3366), (2009).
- Respiratory Infection Control: Respirators vs. Surgical Masks (PDF). OSHA Fact Sheet, (May 2009).
- Frequently Asked Questions on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers. OSHA.