Ebola and the Workplace

By: Ann Godsell, CEBS

As Ebola becomes less prominent in headline news, it’s easy to bank on the deadly virus becoming a distant memory. While the threat of an Ebola epidemic and numbers of confirmed cases in North America have decreased in recent weeks, it’s still important to be ready to implement a plan to keep your workforce safe and productive should the risk escalate. ​

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The International Foundation has created an Ebola resource center as a reminder that employers need always keep in mind the laws that protect employees. Here, you’ll find the information you need to be prepared for issues in the workplace related to a potential Ebola virus outbreak. New resources will be added as they become available.

What should employers do now? First, it’s a good time to check your disaster plan to make sure it includes detailed pandemic protocols. Also, be informed and ready to share factual information with employees, be prepared to put safe practices into place and know your legal obligations. 

  1. ​Keep fears in check. Africa has been experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Reading about possible outcomes of contracting the virus and hearing stories of victims can induce a sense of panic. Ebola fear is warranted. Understand the anxiety employees may have and provide them with the facts. Public health agencies have resources, including printable fact sheets, available.

    What You Need to Know About Ebola
    Facts About Ebola
    Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Fact Sheet

  2. Have a plan to keep your workforce healthy. Protecting employees from risks of contracting Ebola is not only an obvious social priority, it’s also an OSHA requirement. All employers should be prepared in case an employee or an employee’s family member has exposure to, or contracts, the virus.

    Sample Ebola Response Policy
    Does Your Organization Have a Contagious Illness Policy?​
    Ebola Virus Disease Labor & Employment Guidance

  3. Know your legal obligations. When faced with a crisis, it’s easy to take a legal misstep. Be sure to have a solid grasp on occupational safety rules ​so you are prepared to handle a medical crisis appropriately. Rules are not suspended during a public health emergency. 

    OSHA Control and Prevention
    BULLETIN: HIPAA Privacy in Emergency Situations
    Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with
    Disabilities Act

In the unlikely event you have to face a workplace crisis due to Ebola, you’ll be glad you were prepared. Take time now to educate yourself and plan for a “just in case” scenario.

 

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