Officials Urge Organizations To Step Up H1N1 Flu Preparedness

July 17th, 2009

The federal government is moving aggressively to prepare for a more severe outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus in coming months – and municipalities, workplaces, schools and communities also must step up their preparedness efforts, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told attendees at a recent summit in Bethesda, MD.

Federal officials met July 9 at the H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit at the National Institutes of Health to pinpoint strategies for combating a possible H1N1 flu outbreak during the fall flu season. During the summit, Sebelius said HHS is making available $350 million in preparedness grants to assist states and municipalities.

In addition, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said workplaces will need to prepare for higher rates of worker absenteeism, and employers should consider giving workers flexibility for time off if the flu affects others in their households.

In a related development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance July 8 describing planning scenarios for state and local governments that target high-priority populations for the H1N1 flu vaccination, including health care and emergency services workers.

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY NEWS: Texas safety initiative to focus on construction

July 6th, 2009

OSHA is launching a construction safety initiative in Texas, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced June 29.

The state leads the nation in worker deaths, with 67 construction industry fatalities in 2008 and 33 so far this year (as of press time), according to a Department of Labor press release. In an effort to prevent future injuries and deaths, OSHA said it is increasing its number of inspectors in Texas who are empowered to launch an investigation if they observe unsafe hazards at a jobsite.

The announcement comes after the Austin, TX-based Workers Defense Project released a study in which surveyed construction workers reported a lack of safety and health training, company-provided personal protective equipment, health insurance and sick days.