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Coronavirus and Pandemic Planning  

A/Prof David Allen 


Occupational and Environmental Physician 

Conjoint Appointee UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine 



Business Pandemic Plan Checklist 

Centers for Disease Control (US) 

Australian Government advice: 

Hand Hygiene Australia: 

OHS preparedness for an influenza pandemic: A guide for employers 

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins 



  • Can last many months or even more than a year 

  • May be peaks and troughs of reduced illnesses 

  • Plan for up to 50% of staff off at peak of significant pandemic 

  • Likely some advanced warning 

  • Warning can be very short 

  • In Australia may be many weeks before full impact is felt 

  • Early impacts from closure of institutions 


Staffing Levels 

  • With natural disasters the disruption to business is usually due to hardware 

  • With pandemic it’s mainly lack of staff 

  • Plan for 50% staff absenteeism for two weeks at height of severe pandemic waves 

  • Overall pandemic waves may last for 2 months 

  • Waves may vary in severity 


Staffing Levels down from: 

  • Sickness from suspected or actual infection 

  • Need to stay home and care for sick family  

  • Fulfilling voluntary roles in community 

  • To look after children whose schools have closed 


Other Impacts 

  • Suppliers of materials disrupted e.g. lack of air freight if imported 

  • Availability of services from contractors such as in maintenance area may be limited (this area needs careful planning) 

  • Demands for different types of services may vary 

  • Some services will increase e.g. health care 

  • Others may fail such as travel, transportation or education 



Pandemic Manager/Team 

  • One person responsible for general health of the people during pandemic  

  • Team with defined roles and responsibilities 

  • Tasks of pandemic manager include: 

  • Setting up health management processes to ensure staff return to work once recovered and non- infective 

  • Monitoring staff who may be infected or are confirmed as infected 

  • Ensuring that staff have access to medical care in the event of illness or suspected illness 

  • Ensuring there are ample supplies of: 

  • handwashing materials 

  • tissues 

  • medical supplies  

  • cleaning goods (need to be obtained well before any potential pandemic) 


Medical Consultants 

  • Consider obtaining advice of a medical consultant.   

  • May be through contact through Dept of Health or medical services in the occupational/public health area. 


Communicating with staff 

  • Considerable worry, anxiety and distress -from absenteeism and poor morale. 

  • Measures to help control this include as follows: 

  • Early advice to the staff regarding the possibility of a pandemic 

  • Use of fact sheets to aid communication 

  • Discuss OH&S concerns  

  • Discuss leave arrangements 

  • Ensure the continuity plan is in place and is explained to staff 

  • Make communication during possible pandemic part of your plan 

  • Ensure there are systems to maintain communications during the pandemic 


Identifying Core Personnel and Skills 

  • Establish what are core processes 

  • Identify core personnel to keep that running 

  • Identify core skills  

  • Establish adequate back-up for them (and skills) 

  • Identify other resources such as assistance from outside company or ex-employees/retired employees 

  • Consider managing a business during pandemic through “virtual war room” i.e. telephone, email or video conferencing, Microsoft Teams  

  • What part of the business requires specific physical intervention to maintain them 

  • Consider protecting core personnel from illness at work or elsewhere 

  • Trial work from home 



Business Planning for Absence 

  • Identify who can decide on which activities to shut down when staff numbers are so low as to threaten safety 

  • Staff travelling overseas may be unable to work or travel  

  • Use videoconferencing…. 



Knowledge Management 

Any operating procedures or emergency management information or documents need to be stored in: 

  • Safe area 

  • Controlled location 

  • Accessible to the relevant personnel 




Consider communication needs and maintenance. This may be with: 

  • Other business units 

  • Government authorities 

  • Suppliers 

  • Customers 

  • Contractors 


Identify and communicate with key suppliers, customers and contractors in the planning stage. 


Supply Shortages 

  • Could be supplies in demand during a pandemic i.e. protective equipment, disinfectants  

  • Ensure adequate supplies of these. 

  • Transport and/or importing restrictions may occur for various reasons 

  • Discuss with key suppliers plans for shipments during pandemic and what measures can deal with shortages or transport problems 


Protecting Staff and Visitors 

Main strategies for this include: 

  • Restrict workplace entry of people with Coronavirus symptoms 

  • Practice good personal hygiene and workplace cleaning habits 

  • Use social distancing including working from home and avoiding face-to-face contact 

  • Assisting and managing staff who are sick at work 

  • Assisting staff who travel overseas 

  • Worthwhile making use of fact sheets and other information 


Summary of Coronavirus Protection Measures 

  • At the peak of a pandemic, consider notices at entry points restricting those entering who have Coronavirus symptoms 

  • Employees should be told to stay home if they are feeling unwell (particularly if they have Coronavirus symptoms) 

  • Provide information to staff on Coronavirus symptoms 

  • Advise sick employees to see their doctor 

  • Sick employees should stay home until well 

  • System needed to ensure those who have completed quarantine are healthy before return to work 

  • Note: those who have recovered from the infection will be unlikely to be re-infected. 




Personal Hygiene  

Basic personal hygiene is essential 


Simple measures include: 

  • Covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing (preferably with disposable single use tissue) 

  • Immediately dispose of tissue 

  • Proper handwashing and hand hygiene practices especially after coughing, sneezing or using tissues 

  • Keep hands away from eyes, mouth and nose 

  • Ensure adequate supplies of hand hygiene products (requires early planning to avoid shortages of soap and towels) 

  • Bins for tissues nearby 

  • Communicate hand and personal hygiene information to all staff and visitors 


Workplace Cleaning 

  • Additional measures needed during pandemic 

  • Hard surfaces need cleaning including handles, sinks, railings, counters etc 

  • Note virus may live several days on hard surfaces 

  • Virus likely killed by alcohol or chlorine 

  • Clean with neutral detergent then disinfectant 

  • Advise staff to not share cups, dishes or cutlery 

  • Ensure utensils are thoroughly washed with soap and hot water after each use 

  • Remove material that can be handled from waiting rooms and common areas including magazines, newspapers etc 

  • Ensure cleaning of areas contacted by people who have suspected Coronavirus – clean thoroughly 

  • Ensure that cleaners follow appropriate protocol for cleaning and personal protection and waste disposal 



Air Conditioning System 

  • Evidence suggests that Coronavirus virus can spread in areas that have poor ventilation 

  • Advise good ventilation of internal areas 

  • Preferably use fresh air by using windows 

  • Ensure properly designed and maintained air conditioning system (refer to Australian Standards) 


Increased Social Distancing 

  • Minimum distance of two metres between persons wherever practical 

  • Larger distances more effective 

  • Avoid contact with infected people or suspect infected people 

  • Avoid face-to-face meetings – use telephone, video-conferencing, internet etc (even if participants in same building) 

  • Limit unnecessary travel 

  • Work from home wherever possible 

  • Practice shift changes where there is no contact between each shift – ideally leave interval reoccupation of the workplace 

  • If possible ventilate workplace between shifts by increasing air conditioning, opening windows etc. 



Increased Social Distancing 

  • Avoid public transport 

  • If using it choose quiet time 

  • Always disinfect hands 

  • Eat alone at desk of away from others 

  • Stagger lunch or break times 

  • Avoid gathering in communal areas 


In essential meetings: 

  • Choose a large room and  

  • Sit greater than a metre away from others 

  • Avoid any handshaking, hugging etc 

  • Consider meetings in open air 


Set up systems where clients can: 

  • Request information by telephone or email or fax 

  • Have order ready for fast pick-up or delivery 

  • Advise staff to avoid other meetings where possible contact can occur 


Managing Staff Who Are Sick at Work 

  • Contact Coronavirus manager by phone 

  • Coronavirus manager should: 

  • Provide employee with advice where they can find masks and instruct on wearing immediately 

  • Worker to leave work immediately and contact doctor 

  • Worker should avoid public transport 



Managing Staff Who Become Sick at Work – Contact Management 

Employers can help by: 

  • Identifying contacts after an employee has suspected infection 

  • Advise the contacts they may have had contact with an infected person 

  • Advise contacts to go home and stay at home until advised otherwise 

  • Remember to ensure employees workstation is cleaned and disinfected  

  • Consider Pandemic Manager planning for advice on return to work and length of absence 

  • Ensure workers are safe to return to work 

  • Encourage to return to work once well 

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