213227 Healthcare Workers in Peril: Preparing to Protect Worker Health and Safety During Pandemic Influenza

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mark D. Catlin, BS BA , Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Washington, MD
Bill Kojola, MS , Health and Safety, AFL-CIO, Washington DC, DC
Katherine Cox, MEd , MPH , American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Washington, DC
During an influenza pandemic healthcare workers will be at very high risk of becoming infected when caring for patients with pandemic flu unless adequate health and safety measures are in place, in advance of the pandemic, that will protect them. There is no existing comprehensive federal OSHA standard with mandatory and enforceable provisions that require planning and preparation designed to protect healthcare workers from exposures to pandemic influenza. Nevertheless, it is essential that workplaces plan and prepare for safety and health issues before the flu arrives. This poster will present the results of a pandemic flu preparedness survey conducted by a group of unions to assess the level of preparedness on a facility basis. The survey was distributed to union leaders across the country who represent healthcare workers in unionized facilities. One hundred four facility surveys were collected by six unions in fourteen states. The results of the survey indicate that health care facilities have made some progress in preparing for an influenza pandemic but much more needs to be done. More than one third of the respondents believe their workplace is either not ready or only slightly ready to address the health and safety needs necessary to protect healthcare workers during a pandemic. To address the problems of protecting healthcare workers identified in our pandemic influenza preparedness survey, we recommend that a number of actions be undertaken,including that OSHA issue a mandatory workplace standard broadly addressing airborne transmissible diseases.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the results of the survey of healthcare union leaders assessing the level of preparedness to protect the health of healthcare workers in the event of an influenza pandemic. Discuss the reasons for the lack of preparedness reported by the survey and possible options to improve preparedness.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Infectious Diseases

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have academic training and more than 25 years of experience in occupational health work.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.