This guidance provides baseline infection control procedures for seasonal flu. As new information about the current seasonal flu virus becomes available, this workplace guidance will be reevaluated and updated. Employers should ensure that they have the most up-to-date information when making decisions about their current operations and planning.
If you perform certain types of healthcare tasks for patients who may have the flu, then you may be at a higher risk of exposure to the seasonal flu virus at work. Workers who are at risk include those who perform direct patient care, aerosol-generating procedures, specimen analysis, and other patient support, like dietary and housekeeping services. These tasks can be performed in different settings such as inpatient and outpatient healthcare facilities, home healthcare settings, and health services facilities in schools, industrial workplaces, or correctional institutions. If you are one of these workers, then you need to take precautions at work to help reduce your risk of exposure to the flu virus. These precautions include using a combination of safe work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce your exposures. The main strategies to prevent flu transmission include:
Pandemic flu remains a concern for workers and employers, especially those in the healthcare industry. A pandemic can occur at any time and can be mild, moderate, or severe. The pandemic in 2009 was considered by CDC to be mild but it still created challenges for employers and showed that many workplaces were not prepared. The precautions identified in this guidance give a baseline for infection control during a seasonal flu outbreak, but they may not be enough to protect workers during a pandemic. Your employer’s pandemic flu plan should be based on a "worst-case" scenario – one in which the virus causes severe illness and death in larger numbers of people. Planning for the worst-case ensures that employers will have the right type of equipment and enough of it on hand to protect workers. It also ensures that employers have planned for additional control options so that they can pick the right combination for the specific pandemic flu virus. You may have additional planning considerations too. For example, you may need to think about what you’ll do if schools and daycare facilities are closed. For additional information on pandemic flu planning, see OSHA's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers and CDC's healthcare planning resources.
You have the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.
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Your employer should use a combination of the workplace engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment listed below to reduce your exposure to the flu. Engineering controls are the most effective ways to reduce exposure because they involve changes to the workplace. Engineering controls should be used first. PPE is the least effective way to reduce exposure. PPE should be used only when close contact cannot be eliminated any other way. Follow your employer's procedures for implementing these controls and use the protective equipment provided to reduce your exposure risk at work.
This guidance is advisory in nature and informational in content. It is not a standard or regulation, and it neither creates new legal obligations nor alters existing obligations created by OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Pursuant to the OSH Act, employers must comply with safety and health standards and regulations issued and enforced either by OSHA or by an OSHA-approved State Plan. In addition, the Act's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
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