Presented ToPress Conference
Speaker(s)Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
PANDEMIC FLU PREPAREDNESS
Feb. 6, 2007, press conference call introductory remarks for Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., to introduce new OSHA guidance document.
Good afternoon. Thank you for attending this important announcement from OSHA.
In November 2005, President Bush released the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, which outlined the responsibilities that employers and employees in the private and public sectors have for preparing and responding to a pandemic flu.
In May 2006, the White House released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy, identifying the critical steps needed to protect against the threat of an influenza pandemic. The Implementation Plan described more than 300 actions for Federal agencies related to planning and preparation for this type of threat
As part of this collaborative effort, the Department of Labor is responsible for promoting the health, safety and welfare of America's working men and women. Within the Department of Labor, OSHA is responsible for guidance to help employers and employees plan and take steps now to prepare.
This guidance, "Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic," was developed by OSHA and the Department of Labor, in close collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services.
OSHA has been addressing avian flu and pandemic flu concerns for nearly three years. The guidance we are releasing today will help American employers and employees understand what they should do to prepare their workplaces for a pandemic.
This new guidance document is now posted on our website at WWW.OSHA.GOV and also at www.pandemicflu.gov, the federal government's website for the most reliable and up to date information about pandemic flu preparedness.
In the event of an influenza pandemic, employers will play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety. Employers will likely experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce, and potential interruption in supply and delivery of goods and services.
Proper planning and preparation now will enable employers in the public and private sectors to better protect their employees and lessen the impact of a pandemic on their operations, their workforce and the American economy.
We recognize that a severe pandemic in our country could have a devastating effect on our nation's workforce. This guidance, in conjunction with the Interim Pre-Pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States released last week by the Centers for Disease Control, will help limit the spread of a pandemic, prevent disease and death, lessen the impact on the economy, and keep society functioning.
OSHA developed this workplace planning guidance based upon traditional infection control and industrial hygiene practices. It is important to note that there is currently no pandemic. Additional guidance may be needed as an actual pandemic unfolds.
Employers and employees can begin using this planning guidance now to help identify risk levels and appropriate response measures. Control measures outlined in the guidance include good hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing, and the use of personal protective equipment. Up-to-date information and additional guidance is available at pandemicflu.gov.
Faced with the potential threat of a flu pandemic, it is critical that we, as a nation, as employers, and as individuals, do everything we can to prepare now in order to minimize the impact later. Having up-to-date information is the starting point. This is why OSHA is issuing its guidance document, and will continue to update it as any new information becomes available.
I want to impress upon all private and public employers the importance of protecting their most valuable asset ... their employees. Again, proper planning and preparation now can save lives in the future. Proper planning now will better protect employees and lessen the impact of a pandemic on their operations, workforce, and the economy.
Your cooperation in reporting on today's announcement will play a pivotal role in helping to communicate this guidance information to the public and to the working men and women in America. Educating employers, employees, and the public about steps they can take to protect themselves will have significant life-saving impact should the pandemic threat become reality.
Finally, I want to remind employers and employees that OSHA is your most reliable resource for workplace safety and health information. I urge you to visit our website at www.OSHA.gov for all the latest information on workplace safety and health, and go to www.pandemicflu.gov for all U.S. government information on pandemic preparedness.
Now I want to turn over our discussion of pandemic flu preparedness for the workplace to OSHA's Deputy Director of Standards and Guidance, Mandy Edens, who will review the key issues in our new guidance documents.