OSHA pandemic influenza guidancehttp://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html The guidelines, released Feb 6 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), were developed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and offer advice for all types of work settings, from retail stores to hospitals. The 47-page document is part of a national pandemic preparation effort detailed in President Bush’s pandemic strategy, the DOL said in a press release. The guide also discusses personal protective equipment for employees. It explains the capabilities and limitations of masks and respirators and walks employers through various respirator options, from disposable N95 masks to models that resist industrial oils. Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who frequently coaches businesses on pandemic preparations in his current role as chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, praised OSHA for issuing the new guidance. Recommended prevention measures range from supplying workers in lower-risk settings with soap, sanitizer, and other supplies to outfitting employees in high-risk jobs with appropriate respirators. “I’m surprised and excited that OSHA is stepping into this,” Thompson told CIDRAP News, adding that speaking at business conferences puts him in close touch with the concerns business executives have about workplace safety in the event of a pandemic. “The guide is very apropos to what businesses are looking for,” he said. See also: “The more information we have and the more planning we can do, the better off we’ll be,” Thompson said. “This is a good step forward.” Feb 8, 2007 (CIDRAP News) The US Department of Labor (DOL) has introduced workplace health guidelines to help businesses understand their pandemic influenza risks and what they need to do to prepare. The centerpiece of the guidance is a four-level pyramid that stratifies workplaces by pandemic flu risk zones and links each zone with suggested preventive steps. For example, a data-entry office with little contact with the public would be classified as a lower-risk zone, while a dentist’s office where aerosol-generating procedures are performed would be a “very high” risk zone. The guide walks employers through several pandemic preparation steps, such as stockpiling infection control supplies and providing employees with a central source for pandemic flu information. The document details what businesses should include in their pandemic plans and offers employers several suggestions about how to maintain business operations during a pandemic. Examples include installing plastic sneeze shields in customer-contact areas to minimize exposure to the virus and expanding Internet, drive-through, or home-delivery customer service strategies. Feb 6 OHSA press release “In anticipation of a flu pandemic, our top priority is protecting the safety and health of America’s working men and women,” said Edwin G Foulke Jr, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “Employers and employees should use this guidance to help identify risk levels and implement appropriate control measures to prevent illness in the workplace.”
Statewide– Scams targeting electric and natural gas customers are on the rise, with imposters implementing new tactics during the pandemic to trick utility customers out of money and personal information.June 2020 was the highest single month on record for reported scam attempts targeting Duke Energy customers across the states it serves, hitting more than 4,000. The total number of scam attempts reported by Duke Energy customers so far in 2020 – 15,000 – already is approaching 2019’s full-year total of 18,000. In Indiana, Duke Energy customers have reported more than 1,400 scam attempts in June, which is close to the total reports for all of 2019.Scammers have added a new tactic, which promises to mail customers refund checks for overpayments on their accounts if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, social security numbers. Generally, Duke Energy will apply refunds as a credit to customers’ accounts and will not contact customers to verify personal information by phone, email, or in-person in order to mail a check.Scam reports also indicate that phone scammers posing as utility providers continue to call and insist customers are delinquent on their bills. The scammer typically claims a service disconnection is pending, rigs caller ID to mimic your utility provider, and demands the money in the form of a prepaid debit card. Duke Energy has currently suspended disconnections for nonpayment.Common scam tactics include:• A call with pre-recorded voice, often referred to as a robocall, with a caller ID display showing the customer’s utility’s name.• A mimicked Interactive Voice Response menu that customers typically hear when they call their utility.• Threats to disconnect the power or natural gas service to a customer’s home or business within an hour.• Immediate payment demands by prepaid debit card.• And, with many utilities suspending non pay disconnections during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are now promising refund checks if the customer makes a payment and the pending disconnect was an error. Customers who suspect they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers should:• Hang up the phone, especially if it’s a robocall.• Call the utility provider by using the phone number provided on the bill or on the company’s official website, followed by a call to the police.• Never purchase a prepaid debit card or gift card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. DO NOT pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded by a prepaid card to avoid disconnection. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment, and they always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.Customers can learn about recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs on the Federal Trade Commission website www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.