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SBA offers free guide to prepare for flu outbreak

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing a preparedness guide to assist small businesses influ planning for the possibility of an H1N1 flu outbreak this fall. Key to being prepared is to have policies in place that encourage sick workers to stay home without fear of reprisal.

During a call with reporters Karen Mills, SBA administrator, made clear the importance of flu preparedness for small businesses. “Small Business owners should take the time to create a plan, talk with their employees, and make sure they are prepared for flu season,” said Mills.  “For countless small businesses, having even one or two employees out for a few days has the potential to negatively impact operations and their bottom line. A thoughtful plan will help keep employees and their families healthy, as well as protect small businesses and local economies.”

Among other things, the guide gives 10 tips to help small businesses prepare:

1. Develop policies that encourage ill workers to stay at home without fear of any reprisals.

2. Develop other flexible policies to allow workers to telework (if feasible) and create other leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools close.

3. Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.

4. Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees. See www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business.

5. Instruct employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with the flu that they can come to work as usual. Advise them to monitor their health every day and notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill. Employees who have a certain underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should promptly call their health care provider for advice if they become ill.

6. Encourage workers to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine, if it is appropriate for them according to CDC recommendations (www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm). This helps to prevent illness from seasonal influenza strains that may circulate at the same time as the 2009 H1N1 flu.

7. Encourage employees to get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available if they are in a priority group according to CDC recommendations. For information on groups recommended for seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, please see www.flu.gov. Consider granting employees time off from work to get vaccinated when the vaccine is available in your community.

8. Provide workers with up-to-date information on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough etiquette; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and hand hygiene).

9. Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between workers if advised by the local health department. Consider the use of such strategies as extended use of e-mail, websites and teleconferences, encouraging flexible work arrangements (for example, telecommuting or flexible work hours) to reduce the number of workers who must be at the work site at the same time or in one specific location.

10. If an employee does become sick while at work, place the employee in a separate room or area until he or she can go home. If the employee needs to go into a common area prior to leaving, he or she should cover coughs/sneezes with a tissue or wear a facemask if available and tolerable. Ask the employee to go home as soon as possible.

The guide offers additional tools and information to help small businesses plan for and respond flexibly to varying levels of severity of an H1N1 outbreak.

To download the booklet please visit www.sba.gov/flu


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