An influenza pandemic would have more of an impact on the global economy than a single terrorist attack. It would affect trade, tourism, travel, the food supply and consumer buying. A pandemic contingency plan is equally as important as the one many employers currently have in place for hurricanes, floods and natural disasters.
A recent announcement by the Connecticut OSHA addresses a potential flu pandemic or a global disease and how employers should and can prepare for one. “As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.”
An influenza pandemic occurs when a new strain of the virus emerges. Since it’s a new strain, no one would have been able to become immune to the strain. And since no one is immune to it, the strain quickly spreads from one person to another worldwide.
According to the OSHA, employers should have an influenza pandemic disaster plan in place just as they have disaster plans in place for hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. The OSHA says, “As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.”
Influenza is spread from person to person. If a pandemic ever happens, it will likely change patterns in commerce. Normal product deliveries won’t happen because of interruptions in supply chains. Grocery stores will be busy and might even run out of necessary supplies like hand sanitizer and tissues. Some businesses where people group together, like malls, restaurants and movie theaters, may experience a steep decline. Healthcare facilities may become overcrowded.
Employers have the power to minimize widespread economic disruptions by having a plan in place to deal with an influenza outbreak.
Did you know that the 1918 Spanish Flu killed more people than World War I did? The Spanish Flu was an influenza outbreak that killed 50 to 100 million in just 18 months. WWI killed 9 million soldiers and several million civilians.
Every employer should have an emergency plan for fire, flood, tornado, and … the flu?
According to a recent Connecticut OSHA alert, that’s true. The influenza virus, in the form of a worldwide pandemic, is a danger to every business.
A recent Connecticut OSHA alert pointed out that any employee or employer should include in their emergency plans at their workplace a plan for a worldwide influenza pandemic. The plan must contain, among others, behavior and hygiene measures. Reducing the contact between coworkers and between employees and public, can minimize the spread of disease. For example, instead of meetings, the businesses can schedule conference calls. They can also allow telecommuting, allowing some employees to work from home. The use of drive-thru windows can be an effective barrier between employees and the public.
Some tips about hygiene, not only during a pandemic, but in general, are:
Don’t go to school or work when you are ill
Don’t cough or squeeze without covering your mouth (a disposable tissue is recommended)
Don’t stay close to infected people
Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently
In a pandemic, the flu virus appears in a new strain, and it spread quickly from person to person across the globe. Between 1918 and 1920, more than 50 million people died because of the flu, many of them healthy young adults. This was the last major influenza pandemic. The virus first appeared at a military base in Kansas, but spread rapidly all over the world.
In most countries, wartime censorship prevented newspapers from publishing articles about the disease. The Spanish press, however, published many stories, and the illness was called the “Spanish Flu”. According to OSHA, a pandemic can produce severe damage to the global economy, more than any single terrorist attack.
Ordinary influenza is not the same as influenza pandemic. Flu is an uncomfortable and annoying disease but not risky. Small children, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems, may have serious problems with the flu, but not healthy adults.
No influenza pandemic has developed in the last decades. Every year during fall and winter, the seasonal flu appears, but it is not a significant menace.
People try to avoid appearing in public places or going to work if they are suffering from flu. As it happens, flu is contagious and if a patient does not isolate him or herself, they could start a domino effect and soon the whole office would be coughing and sneezing. Usually, influenza is not counted among workplace hazards, but in actuality, it is.
A recent Connecticut OSHA alert warns against the possibility of an influenza epidemic. A worldwide outbreak of a disease is called an epidemic. Usually, people have to suffer from flu in autumn or winter. However, there have been cases when it affects a large number of people all over the world. Hence, the employers and employees in Connecticut have been forewarned so that preventive measures can be taken.
The virus that causes flu is undergoing the process of evolution like every other living organism. Hence, new strains of flu virus manifest themselves every now and then. The most recent one occurred in 1957. The scientific community succeeded in containing it rather quickly, but a million people had lost their lives to it by then. The Spanish Influenza Epidemic took 25 weeks to control. In addition, 25,000,000 people had lost their lives in that outbreak. AIDS has caused the same number of deaths, but over a period of twenty-five years.
More recently, avian or bird flu has been plaguing poultry farmers. This kind of influenza is found in wild birds, but it can be transferred to the domestic ones in Asia, Africa and Europe. If an infected bird is consumed, it can infect the person who has eaten it, and that can be the beginning of an endemic in humans. Since this variety of virus is already known, it has not resulted in a high human death toll. Nevertheless, it has caused serious financial damage to international poultry farmers.
Under the High Growth Job Training initiative Elaine Chao, the Labor Secretary, announced grants totaling $16.8 million to 11 organizations in 10 states to prepare workers for careers in advanced manufacturing.
The competitive Connecticut employment grant of $1,775,030 was awarded to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. This grant will be utilized to train workers for high-paying jobs in the advanced manufacturing industry.
Every country’s economic health depends more on some industries more than on others. Manufacturing is one such area of business for the American economy. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the manufacturing sector shows more technological innovation that any other business sector. It consistently contributes to the growth of economy, and helps America keep its edge in the global market. It is responsible for 14% of U.S. GDP and 11% of total U.S. employment.
Manufacturing funds 60% of the $193 billion that the U.S. private sector invests annually in research and development.
As time goes by, the manufacturing sector is advancing by leaps and bounds. The steady growth and technological advancement create the need of a more highly skilled workforce. But a recent survey in manufacturing employers found out that 80% of the respondents say that they have difficulty in finding suitable qualified people.
At the moment, salaries and benefits in the manufacturing sector average on $54,000 per year. This figure is higher than all of the private sector combined. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, workers are drawn to the manufacturing sector for higher pay and benefit, and the opportunities for advanced education and training.
The High Growth Job Training Initiative is an effort by the government to prepare a workforce that has the training and skills required by the high growth sectors of economy. Under this initiative, problem areas are highlighted through dialog with the industry leaders. Then regional solutions are designed, involving area employers, the public workforce system and educational institutions.
Powered Industrial Trucks, or forklifts as many of us call them, are one of the most hazardous pieces of equipment in regular use in industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 100 workers are killed and 20,000 are seriously injured each year as a result of fork truck accidents. Most of those accidents are entirely preventable.
According to a recent Connecticut OSHA publication, the CONN OSHA quarterly, a significant number of forklift injuries and deaths can be directly related to fork truck instability. Here’s just one example of a needless fatality. On a Friday in July, CONN OSHA’s Bridgeport office received a call that a worker at a local car dealership had been involved in a forklift accident.
Because forklifts have 4 wheels, many workers expect them to handle like cars. However, the forklift’s rear axel is actually a pivot, for greater maneuverability. Instead of resting stability on 4 points, the forklift rests on 3 points. This difference has caused many accidents.
As you might already know, all fatal accidents must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours. In this case, the auto dealership worker had been assisting a neighboring business in unloading a tractor-trailer. As merchandise was being unloaded from the truck, it was being placed in a pickup truck.
The forklift has just finished placing a large item into the bed of the pickup. The forklift operator put his machine in reverse and quickly backed up, turning the steering wheel sharply. The motion caused the forklift to flip onto its side. The worker was thrown out and crushed by the forklift’s overhead protection cage. Tragically, the forklift driver died of his injuries.
A CONN OSHA investigation showed that the worker had not been properly trained to operate the forklift. The forklift had not been equipped with a seatbelt or any other type of driver restraint.
When the forklift was placed in reverse, the forks were still raised. It’s important that forklifts be placed in reverse only when the forks are lowered, to prevent just such accidents.
According to the “Employer’s Guide to Material Handing Safety”, turning too sharply with the forks raised can cause the forklift to tip over, even at slow speeds with no load on the forks.
This accident could have been avoided if the forklift operator was properly trained. Every trained forklift operator should remember that forklifts are less stable than automobiles, with or without a load. A seatbelt or other restraint would have also prevented the worker from being ejected.