Swine Flu & The Distribution Center: Things you can do
Everyone is talking about the swine flu pandemic. You might even be worried about it for yourself and your family. As the weather becomes colder people will become more susceptible. There is no reason to just sit and worry; we have some suggestions for things you can actually do to be proactive.
Promote cleanliness: Washing one's hands is consistently the number one method touted by the health care industry for prevention of contagious disease. How can you do this in your distribution center or facility? Several ways.
- Signs in the restrooms can remind employees to wash their hands. Normally these are references seen solely in restaurants, but now, everyone needs to wash their hands as often as possible. So, put up some signs and make certain those soap dispensers are working and full.
- Distribute sanitary wipes for use on equipment. Steering wheels on everything from the delivery trucks to the forklifts, the buttons on the scanners, keyboards, and the mouthpieces of telephones used by multiple personnel should be wiped down before every use. Many brands come in small dispensers that can be simply attached to the dashboard of the truck or alongside the telephone.
- Hand sanitizers are available in bottles as well as counter units. Put an automatic dispenser at the entrance to the lunchroom, in front of conference rooms, near the time clock to help get personnel in the habit of taking a squirt and cleaning their hands during the day.
- If your people work in very close quarters, you might want to provide face masks. These are not very expensive and can prevent the germs from spreading due to a cough or sneeze.
- Get them shots: The vaccines are available and virtually everyone in your organization should get one. There are several things you might do with regard to getting your people vaccinated:
- Determine exactly what your company policy will cover and what getting vaccinated might actually cost (co-pay, co-insurance, etc.). Some policies may cover these vaccines 100%, others may cost anywhere up to $50 per injection. This is important to know ahead of time, so the financial impact can be taken into account as you encourage your staff to get the shots.
- Not only encourage, provide extra time off for employees to go get their shots at their physician's office. They can provide the documentation from the physician's office showing that they actually got their shot to avoid having the paid time off from being deducted against their sick time or vacation time.
- Investigate the possibility of having a nurse come in and have the company provide the vaccinations, right on property. This is a great way to make it convenient and actually get it done. The group discount may provide a very economical opportunity - especially when compared to the cost of paying sick-day salaries. If this needs to cost each staff member money (for a co-pay or uncovered cost), you can get them to sign off for a salary deduction and just take it from their next paycheck. Check with the insurance carrier to see what they might chip in for a group vaccination event.
- Allow family members to get vaccinated, as well. Employees will appreciate the benefit and the convenience.
- Adjust Work Rules: There are things you can do to increase the distance between people and get the job done.
- Cross train employees for mission critical tasks.
- Consider work from home schedules.
- Limit face to face meetings.
- Consider conference calls and video conferencing.
- Financial Repercussions: You need to really evaluate this from the perspective of the bottom line. In addition to the tangible costs to the company of a sick day, there are intangible costs as well. Customer good-will, especially in this economic time, can turn into a loss of large tangible dollars when bad-will develops due to late or delayed deliveries. You know the financial repercussions of making a customer unhappy.
- You need to know: It is against federal laws, including the Americans with Disability Act, to reveal health information about any employee. Make sure your managers do not divulge any information about another employee's health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified that those aged 24 and younger and pregnant women have the highest occurrences of swine flu, to date. The highest number of deaths have been documented to those in the 25 to 49 age group and the second highest number of death from the swine flu were in the 50-64 year old age group. These statistics most certainly cover all of your staff members, making this a flu season to which you need to pay attention.
The following sites provide further information on The Swine Flu:
2009 CDC Information Update
Know What to do about the Flue
Flu Trends Around the World
Communication Tool Kit for business and employees