Pandemic Plans: Everything HR Needs to Know About Workplace Health and Safety During a Crisis

We’re only two months into 2020 and we've already had several real causes of concern. Between our heroes' passing, bushfires, and threats of war it hasn't been an easy start to the year.

Coronavirus has recently emerged from Wuhan in China and is continuing to spread around the world, being able to infect both humans and animals. As scientists strive towards developing ways of fighting this previously unknown threat, we can all take measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

As the number of coronavirus cases increases worldwide, the World Health Organisation has declared it a public health emergency of international concern. 

Check out this guide to learn how to create emergency pandemic plans for your company.

Are We in Danger?

We want to start by saying that, at the writing of this article, there is absolutely no need for panic or extreme measures concerning the novel coronavirus.

However, as history teaches us, it is always better to plan for the worst-case scenario. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The Looming Threat of Pandemics

First, let's define pandemic. It's a type of epidemic, an event in which an infectious disease spreads faster than expected.

Pandemics, however, are epidemics that have spread to include multiple regions and even the entire world.

The New Threat

The newest threat is 2019-nCoV. It was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan. More specifically, many of the first patients to be confirmed worked in a particular fish market.

The mysterious virus was eventually isolated and was determined to be a member of the coronavirus family. One of the most frequent causes of the common cold is a coronavirus.

Crossing the Borders

Since late 2019, the novel coronavirus has made its way throughout China and into several neighbouring countries. This includes Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

More recently, it has made its way into Australia, the United States, Germany, and France.
At the time of this writing, the total number of people reported dead due to coronavirus has risen to 910 worldwide, with more than 40,500 people infected on four continents.

Treatment

At the moment, there is no specific cure for coronavirus. Patients can be treated with supportive measures, such as fluid therapy and pain relief.

How To Prepare for Pandemics

Being well informed is crucial to create an adequate plan.

Diseases like coronavirus and the flu can be prevented with proper hygiene but be sure you know how to recognize signs of disease. Encourage a policy of not going into work if you're sick to avoid spreading any germs around the office.

Proper Hygiene

Regular handwashing with soap and water is necessary to stop the spread. Try not to touch your face with unclean hands since you could be introducing the virus to your nose and mouth.

Respiratory hygiene refers to covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing, it is imperative that you cover your mouth at all times while coughing in a public space. Also, you should refrain from getting unnecessarily close (within three feet) to anyone who is coughing, sneezing or has a fever.

Coronavirus and many other disease-causing germs are spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. These are released when we cough, sneeze and speak.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

The symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection are fairly nonspecific and can be mild in the early stages. It can be virtually indistinguishable from the common cold or the flu, even for a physician.

People experience fever, headache, muscle aches, shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, and vomiting.

What to Do if You Get Sick

If you experience these symptoms and have travelled to Hubei province or other parts of China, you are advised to seek medical help immediately.

If you feel sick but have not travelled to China, it is very unlikely you have coronavirus. However, you are advised to remain home and practice good hygiene until you recover.

Regardless, people with difficulty breathing and high fevers should seek medical advice.

Who Needs a Pandemic Preparedness Policy?

Every company should have a plan in case of an emergency, with certain industries required to be more cautious than others.

Institutions that deal with transportation and the import of goods from other countries need to have a well-rehearsed pandemic plan to ensure all employees are protected.

Other sectors that need to be prepared include agriculture, military, water, crucial infrastructure, and those involved with nuclear energy and other hazardous chemicals.

Creating a Pandemic Plan for Businesses.

Prevention of the next disaster requires appropriate pandemic planning. This doesn't mean that everybody needs to show up for their desk job in a hazmat suit, however several proven methods can be applied in your place of work.

Even if you don't work in transportation or for the CDC, human resource departments of all industries can play their part.
Stratifying Exposure Risk

Not everyone has the same chance of being infected. This will depend on lifestyles on the nature of their work.

Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff likely have the highest risk of catching a viral infection from sick patients.

Those who are in contact with a large number of people, such as school teachers, have a moderate risk while those with relatively solitary office jobs have the lowest risk.

HR Management to Save Lives

You might be thinking that, as a HR manager, there is little you can do about the Coronavirus.

However, HR managers are fundamental in supporting health at the office.

Surveys tell us that around 90% of workers still come into work when they have flu or cold-like symptoms.

HR managers should educate employees of the importance of not going to work when showing signs of sickness.

Let's Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

It is advisable to employ preventative measures in the workplace. Do you know what the pandemic plans are where you work? If not, you need to urge your HR department to spread awareness.

Use myGB Poster Designer to educate your employees on the importance of washing your hands. 

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