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Ebola info... what YOU need to know as an Employer

Posted Friday, October 24, 2014.


Ebola is a disease that has received a considerable amount of attention recently due to the potential for it to cause a pandemic. Although the risk of a widespread outbreak in the United States is relatively low, employers need to be aware that Ebola has arrived in the United States. This article will briefly address the U.S. and Canadian governments’ responses, employer obligations, and outline some available resources for printers to help prevent and effectively respond to an outbreak.

The major concern is the rapid transmission of the disease between humans. In order for human transmission to occur, there has to be contact with contaminated blood, body fluids, or contaminated objects such as needles. Ebola is a group of viruses that cause a deadly hemorrhagic fever. The term “hemorrhagic fever” means it causes bleeding inside and outside the body. The virus has a long incubation period of approximately 8 to 21 days. Early symptoms include fever, muscle weakness, sore throat, and headaches.


Even though the likelihood of the pandemic occurring is low, the scope of a pandemic can vary widely. For example, a pandemic may not come to your town or city, but it could affect your company, such as in sales; ability to bring in paper, ink and other resources; ability to deliver product or mail, psychological toll on employees; financial toll on the company and employees, etc.

Employers may be surprised to learn that there are numerous requirements imposed on them if a pandemic should occur. For example, under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers have an obligation under the “General Duty Clause” to protect employees against “recognized hazards” at places of business. Thus, if the employer becomes aware that infected employees or visitors have come to the worksite, the employer is obligated to let employees know and/or to take measures to prevent the spread of infection. If wide-spread infection occurs in a specific geographic area, OSHA might have a difficult time proving that an infection actually occurred at the employer’s premises and thus hold the employer liable. While it is unlikely OSHA will hold employers liable for the spread of a pandemic, particularly in the cases of hospitals, the possibility does exist. OSHA would, however, require the employer to develop a plan to prevent any further infection. Infections at work would qualify for appropriate documentation under OSHA’s recordkeeping rules (i.e., OSHA 300 Log).