What Enters Your Office Doors? Managing Visitors During a Pandemic

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The most common illness experience most of us will have in our organizations will be as a result of Influenza.

Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). Influenza usually spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and the virus is sent into the air.

Should an influenza pandemic occur, the incidence of illness and death from influenza will likely dramatically increase worldwide. Considering the epidemiology of an influenza pandemic, lengthy and widespread absenteeism could result. Battling heightened absenteeism that can halt operations in a business or school begins with creating a communicable illness plan.

A communicable illness plan (CIP) establishes a framework for identifying, preventing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from a pandemic outbreak. Plans address pandemics of all sizes and provide awareness to the organization. All employees must be trained on protocols of the CIP.

Related: 8 Telework and Social Distancing Points for Employer Communicable Illness Plans

Businesses with daycare centers on site, or businesses that see a high volume of children are more vulnerable to outbreaks. Organizations such as schools tend to be affected by influenza outbreaks more than other settings because their occupants—primarily children—easily transmit illnesses to one another as a result of their close proximity and their inefficiency at containing droplets from their coughs and sneezes.

Not only must organizations train employees on the CIP, they also have to keep in mind visitors entering and visiting the office. A pandemic can last several weeks or months; how many visitors walk through your doors during that amount of time?

Can visitors be denied entry during a pandemic?

A business operator that is not normally open to the ‘public’ can deny access during a pandemic. Prevention or delay of spreading a communicable illness may require companies to control both business and personal visitor access, in order to keep employees safe.

Can visitors be forced to wear masks?

During a pandemic, employers can ask their visitors to wear a mask. If they refuse, employers should deny entry.

Can visitors be questioned about previous exposure?

Yes. Visitors should be denied entry if they have traveled to an affected city/county/region within a specified time period (period may vary dependent upon illness and condition) preceding their visit or if they have had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with a communicable illness or if they appear symptomatic. We recommend that a designated meeting room be set up for visitors and that the meeting room be subject to stringent cleaning protocols.

We strive to ensure your organization can continue operations regardless of the crisis that will eventually hit; including communicable illness. To learn more about communicable illness planning, download our paper Communicable Illness: Planning for Communicable, Insect Borne and Epidemic and Pandemic Conditions. The paper reviews common questions related to communicable illness planning and are answered by a Firestorm CRISIS COACH® panel of experts from the medical, legal and crisis industries.

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