Updating an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
The world has come upon the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the world was in a public health emergency due to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and everything stopped and/or shut-down.
As the government started to put out guidance on how to open back up and operate businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic with guidance, primarily from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and OSHA, some businesses started to open back up with restrictions, different policies cobbled together from the various guidance documents and a hope that we can do this with minimal disruption to overall productivity and profitability.
Most companies did not have a plan in place for this type of an emergency or business interruption. Those companies that did have a business continuity plan did not have anything in there for a pandemic, it just was not on the radar.
Now, after a year or more into the pandemic, many companies that were able to open back up trying to follow the guidance from the CDC and OSHA and loosely developing a “plan” to continue operations needs to review that plan or write down the plan for future use and possibly an OSHA regulation for pandemic protection or more accurately an infectious disease preparedness and prevention plan.
This plan needs to be updated to reflect the latest direction from the CDC and OSHA as the guidance changed over the past year as the knowledge and understanding increased about COVID-19. Company plans needs to be updated as once businesses got back up and operating to reflect the current situations and operations so that if something like COVID-19 happens again, businesses do not need to start from scratch as many did in February/March of 2020.
The updates should include, besides the current guidance from CDC and OSHA, documenting how operations were adapted so that workers were not working so close together, how they are separated by shields, how tasks are completed under these conditions, remote working situations, updated absentee and sick day policies, updated PPE especially respiratory protection requirements, face coverings, work schedule changes, work station design changes, adapting worksites to accommodate reduced worker capacities on jobsites, how project schedules are affected due to reduced number of workers on a jobsite, how the offices are reworked to accommodate less workers in more space, changes in ventilation, handling supplier disruptions, handling production disruptions and changes, and the use of technology for hybrid meetings and training. These are not an exhaustive list, by any means, and are very general in nature.
The objective of updating the current plan is so that companies do not have to start from scratch if something like this pandemic happens again. The great thing about keeping the plans updated is that even if a pandemic like COVID-19 does not occur in again for a very long time, the plan can be adapted for other emergencies, situations, and business disruptions. Companies have already developed the planning and implemented the changes to operations so it is a recommended practice to write down the planning that was done, the plans that were implemented, the changes to operations that were made, and lessons learned so that companies are not re-inventing the wheel when a major emergency or some type of business interruption occurs in the future.