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Less than half of essential workers willing to report to work during a serious pandemic
Date:9/29/2010

h respirators and pandemic vaccine and had an established pandemic plan. Willingness was also tied to past experience; essential workers who had responded to a previous disaster were significantly more willing to report during a pandemic.

The researchers found that workers' ability or availability to work during a serious pandemic was closely linked to their personal obligations. Referred to as "dilemmas of loyalty," otherwise healthy essential workers might stay at home to care for sick family members or their childrenif schools are closed. Organizational policies and programs that help workers meet their personal obligations will also increase workers' ability to work. "Even something as simple as ensuring that workers can communicate with their families while they are on duty, can have a big impact on both ability and willingness," reports Dr. Gershon.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made workplace pandemic planning and training materials readily available, the Columbia study did not find much evidence of preparedness. Only a small proportion of the workers (9%) were aware of their organization's pandemic plans, and only 15% had ever received pandemic influenza training at work. As Dr. Gershon notes, "the study findings suggest that these preparedness steps are important in building worker trust. Workers who trust that their employers can protect them during a communicable disease outbreak will be significantly more likely to come to work and perform their jobs jobs that are vital to the safety, security and well-being of the entire community."

To help ensure adequate staffing levels, employers should focus preparedness efforts on worker protection and the development of policies that facilitate the attendance of healthy workers. The authors suggest a number of relatively straightforward strategies that employers can take to support employees' response during pandemic outbreaks. These include:

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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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