Planning for Future Pandemics

By Susan Novo, Cowan Insurance Group

May, 2010 – The H1N1 flu has been by far the biggest health story of the past few years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the H1N1 was the first pandemic in 41 years. Due to the importance of this issue, we published a special bulletin on H1N1 last fall that talked about the three stages of the pandemic; (1) pre-pandemic, (2) pandemic, and (3) post-pandemic – and the actions to be taken at each stage.

Simply because the pandemic has passed for the time being does not mean you should forget about the precautions you have put in place. It is in this post-pandemic stage that employers are best positioned to make continued efforts to ensure a safe work environment for their employees.

“Between the extremes of panic and complacency lies the solid ground of vigilance.”
Dr. Margaret Chan – Director General, World Health Organization

Post-Pandemic Planning

This is the time to look back on the measures that were taken and determine what changes need to be made in order to better prepare for the next pandemic.

We recommend that you review:

  • Your pandemic plan and compare it to the action that was taken during the pandemic.
  • Absenteeism during the pandemic stage and how you managed reporting absences of all kinds, and those of an infectious nature. It’s also a good time to look at your return-to-work policies and practices (i.e. obtaining medical clearance to return to work, or a blanket policy that all employees could return to work once symptom free for a specific number of days).
  • Current office hygiene procedures, such as: the cleaning of an ill employee’s work station; the increasing the frequency of your office cleaning; or the provision of anti-bacterial wipes.
  • You may even want to survey your employees and/or clients to obtain feedback regarding their perception of how the organization managed the pandemic and communicated its plan. Following your compilation of this data, review the plan and compare it with the outcomes. After this review, you will be positioned to make changes to the existing plan to ensure you are well prepared for any future pandemic.

    Moving Forward

    If you have made any changes to your organization’s pandemic plan, we recommend testing this new or modified plan in order to ensure its functionality. Recommendations for moving forward include:

    • Regular reviews of your organization’s pandemic plan according to the changes that occur within your organization, such as restructuring or relocation.
    • Ensuring that changes are accounted for in your pandemic plan.
    • Maintaining an updated disaster recovery list to ensure the communication with your employees at all times.
    • Maintaining hand washing and office hygiene principles. Good hygiene has always been and continues to be the best measure against the spread of any infection.
    • Requiring sick employees stay home in order to prevent the spread of their infection.
    • These measures should help you maintain your organizational health during future pandemics.

      If you have any questions, please contact your Cowan consultant or the author of this article, Susan Novo, Manager of Health and Disability: 613-741-3313 ext. 52274 or susan.novo@cowangroup.ca.

      Reprinted with permission from the May 2010 Employee Benefits Bulletin newsletter published by Cowan Group’s Benefits and Retirement Consulting Division.
      This article was abbreviated from an original version published in the April issue of Avantages magazine. With information from: The H1N1 Flu in Ontario, a Report by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

      About Cowan Insurance Group

      Cowan is one of the largest privately-owned insurance brokerage operations in Canada, specializing in business and personal insurance (including home, auto and boat insurance). They provide additional services through a consulting team that specializes in assisting employers with their retirement and group benefits requirements with a team of financial advisors specializing in financial planning and risk management solutions.
      Visit www.cowangroup.ca