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Pandemic Planning Coronavirus - Points for Business Continuity Planning

Updated: Feb 26



A/Prof David Allen

MBBS(Hons), DPH, FAFOEM

Occupational and Environmental Physician

Conjoint Appointee UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine


Pandemics


  • Can last many months or even more than a yearMay be peaks and troughs of reduced illnesses

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

  • Likely some advanced warningWarning can be very shortIn Australia may be many weeks before full impact is feltEarly 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 concernsDiscuss 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 processesIdentify 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


Communication


  • 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


  • Coronavirus virus might spread in areas that have poor ventilation

  • Advise good ventilation of internal area

  • 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

  • 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:


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

Resources:

Business Pandemic Plan Checklist

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/pdf/businesschecklist.pdf

Centers for Disease Control (US)

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

Australian Government advice:

https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov#latest-news

Hand Hygiene Australia:

https://www.hha.org.au/hand-hygiene/hha

OHS preparedness for an influenza pandemic: A guide for employers

https://content.api.worksafe.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-06/ISBN-OHS-preparedness-for-an-influenza-pandemic-guide-for-employers-2009-05_0.pdf

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6