If you have not seen the film, chances are you have at least seen the memes and hype surrounding Netflix’s new horror movie, Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock as the protagonist, Malorie. The film begins with the arrival of mysterious creatures, the sight of which drives nearly anyone unlucky enough to view them to commit suicide. Malorie joins a band of survivors attempting to navigate this post-apocalyptic world where blindfolds are necessary to stay alive.
While it is unlikely that suicide-inducing monsters will descend from the skies and decimate our world, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has warned employers to keep their eyes open to the importance of planning for a potential influenza pandemic. OSHA’s guidance cautions that “[p]lanning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic’s impact. Companies that provide critical infrastructure services, such as power and telecommunications, also have a special responsibility to plan for continued operation in a crisis and should plan accordingly.”
If an influenza pandemic (i.e., a worldwide outbreak of influenza among people when a new strain of the virus emerges) were to occur, OSHA has identified three key areas where employers can expect significant impact:
- Absenteeism affecting as many as 40% of the workforce during periods of peak influenza illness;
- Changes in patterns of commerce, such as dramatic increases in consumer demand for items related to infection control and declining interest in other goods. OSHA predicts that consumers may also change the ways in which they shop, such as avoiding peak hours and opting for home delivery services to reduce contact with other people.
- Interrupted supply/delivery arising from delayed and cancelled shipments of items from geographic areas severely affected by the pandemic.
OSHA recommends that all employers develop a disaster plan, which includes preparations for a potential pandemic. Employers can visit http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/businesschecklist.html for additional information. Employers should review their disaster plans and conduct drills regularly. Tips for pandemic preparedness include:
- Reviewing federal, state, and local health department pandemic influenza plans and incorporating appropriate actions from those plans into workplace disaster plans;
- Working with suppliers to ensure continued operations and services;
- Developing a sick leave policy that encourages employees with influenza-related symptoms to stay home so that they do not infect other employees;
- Identifying possible exposure and health risks to employees;
- Minimizing exposure to fellow employees and the public;
- Planning for potential downsizing (or a potential surge) in services;
- Stockpiling (and providing easy employee access to) infection control supplies while keeping in mind each product’s shelf life;
- Organizing and identifying a central team to serve as a communication source during a crisis; and
- Working with insurance companies and state/local health agencies to provide information to employees and customers about medical care in the event of a pandemic.
For more information regarding influenza pandemic preparedness, visit http://www.osha.gov. In the meantime, enjoy Bird Box (though maybe not right before bedtime) and please, please, please do not attempt the Bird Box challenge. Even Netflix has issued a warning asking users not to attempt the challenge by performing stunts while blindfolded.