Experts on Friday urged workplaces to formulate an integrated response plan involving awareness literature, Intranet advisories and advocacy of personal hygiene measures to check the propagation of the A (H1N1) virus.
Participants at a consultation on “Managing Swine Flu in your Workplace and Home” hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), recommended that occupational health personnel and HR units jointly evolve an influenza response protocol that would hold good not just for swine flu but emerging viruses in future as well.
Workplaces should promote simple preventive measures such as rinsing hands with soap water, using disposable toiletries and ensuring their safe disposal as well, said U. V. Ramakrishnan, senior chest physician, Voluntary Health Services.
Liquid soap dispensers were preferable to soap bars which could pass on the virus to the next person using it. Ventilating air-conditioned rooms at the start or end of each workday was also recommended.
“However, basic personal hygiene measures can offer a fair degree of protection from infection but are certainly not foolproof safeguards,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said.
The convenor of CII Health Panel, E. S. Krishnamoorthy, urged employers to go liberal in granting leave to employees reporting with flu symptoms, but at the same time have a designated physician evaluate the patient for any sign of worsening of condition.
If an employee has suspected swine flu, it is the employer’s responsibility to have the workstation de-infected so that the virus is not passed around and to put the group of staffers working in proximity with the sick person on alert, he said.
Employers engaging contract workers were advised to screen them at entry points for flu symptoms. Experts recommended that employees who were given protective gear such as face masks should also be given proper training on handling them to maximise insulation.
Dr. Ramakrishnan explained that flu patients could be classified as “A”, where they only needed to be monitored for a couple of days, “B” comprising vulnerable segments such as children below five years of age or elders over 65 years of age and pregnant women required extra care, and “C” category in whom a definite worsening of symptoms warranted immediate hospitalisation.