Thursday, October 29, 2009

Protecting Your SMB From the Swine Flu

Protecting Your SMB From the Swine Flu
It's getting to be flu season but this year there is more than just the regular flu to worry about; there's also H1N1 (or the Swine Flu). According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a flu pandemic can leave a business without 40% of its workforce - something many SMBs can't afford to have happen. And with the potential for H1N1 outbreaks on top of that, federal and health care officials are urging business owners to be prepared this winter. That means preparing for operating with an unusually small number of staff.

"All businesses should be prepared for the upcoming flu season. They should have a pandemic plan that has the flexibility to adapt to various scenarios from fairly mild to severe," Dr. John Halpin of the Center for Disease Control said in an interview with

One of the first things a business can do to prevent a flu outbreak is focus on prevention. Advise sick employees to stay home and insist they not return to work until at least 24 hours after having a fever. Some business owners may even want to encourage their employees to get a flu vaccine. And as is good practice any time of year, encourage your employees to wash their hands often, and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. A lot of prevention comes down to just plain common sense.

But even the most preventative measures may not work and for this reason, business owners should have a plan in place for keeping things running smoothly when a large percentage of employees are sick at the same time. Make sure employees are cross-trained to handle various positions within your company. Keep the number of an employment agency handy, in case you need temporary workers.

And of course, there's always the possibility you or your managing staff could become ill. In that case, documenting general operating procedures is a must, along with keeping a list of important contact information for anyone who might be taking over operating procedures. Make sure you have someone who is knowledgeable and whom you can trust to oversee your business in the event that you do sick. And one of the most important things you can do is to be flexible.

Should your company become affected and become part of a flu pandemic, there are a few things to remember. First of all, have your plan handy and refer to it. If possible, enable your employees to telecommute or work remotely. Make sure you sanitize any affected areas and something many business owners may not think about it letting an employee bring their child to work in the event schools are closed.

A little planning and flexibility can go a long way when it comes to a flu pandemic and taking the time out to make a plan can save your business thousands of dollars.

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