The influenza outbreak this spring served as wake-up call for respiratory protection plans, reports the July issue of Medical Environment Update .
When influenza A H1N1, or swine flu, hit Mexico and subsequently the United States, there were two priorities for safety officers healthcare facilities:
- Mitigate the spread of disease
- Ensure protection of healthcare workers so they felt safe to come to work
For many facilities, that meant developing a way to quickly fit test employees for N95 respirators. Numerous surveys have already found that a portion of the healthcare work force would not come in during a pandemic due to fear for their own health or the health of their family, so having a plan in place that is part of your pandemic planning will help ensure protection and provide reassurance for workers.
With the initial swine flu scare largely behind us, health officials are concerned about its resurgence in the fall and winter months, when flu season is in full force. An escalated flu season could affect physician offices and outpatient clinics as much as hospitals since patients will likely consult their primary care physician before an emergency room.
Although the outbreaks served as an opportunity to fit test employees who typically get a pass on annual testing, for others it was a wake-up call to implement a plan that provides employee protection during a pandemic. Doing so will help prevent the spread of the disease and protect your work force, says Bruce E. Cunha, RN, MS, COHN-S, manager of employee health and safety at the Marshfield (WI) Clinic.
“We want to make sure we are taking care of our patients and taking care of our employees,” Cunha says.
The Medical Environment Update  article explains how to establish a just-in-time program, and how to incorporate it into your employee training.
The July issue also includes:
- Details on California’s aerosol transmissible disease standard and what it may mean for federal OSHA
- Survey report on outpatient MRI infection control problems
- Notes from the field on glutaraldehyde safety 
- Quick self-inspection checklist for your emergency action plan
- Ask the expert Q&As on filing OSHA paperwork, under the sink storage, and postexposure management and employee termination 
- A quiz designed to test your understanding of OSHA standards and government regulatory guidelines applying to healthcare facilities covered in this issue of the newsletter