Tips for Responding to the ‘Tripledemic’
Have you ever heard of the term “tripledemic”? If you haven’t, you may start hearing it more often very soon. A tripledemic is when three major virus threats are threatening the healthcare system at the same time. This winter’s concerns are the flu, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), and the still lingering COVID.
Why am I talking about this as a Sr. Risk and Safety Consultant? Because a tripledemic does cause threats to your business, including the multiple ways your employees will be affected over this high virus season. Think about the following:
- Access to medical care might be delayed restricted.
- Pediatric care could be especially difficult.
- Certain employees with underlying medical conditions will be at a much higher risk.
- Some employees will be fearful.
- Adults will often try to tough out a sore throat or cough, but this can be the most contagious period of the virus.
- Schools may cancel and parents will have to find childcare.
Set Up a Response Program
I’ve been working with businesses since 2009, to include during the H1N1 panic and how to reasonably respond to a pandemic threat. There are a couple of rules I’ve tried to follow when setting up a response program for any business by asking these questions:
- Is it reasonable and reflective of the threat?
- Is it responsible – meaning, does it demonstrate care and concern for my employees and their families?
- Is it achievable? Viruses are tricky!
- Is it sustainable? Think — can I do this effectively for extended periods?
- Can I achieve other collective goals with my initiative?
Put the Response Plan into Action
With these questions in mind, I then help companies outline a reasonable immediate response and mentally prepare for stair-stepped increase in response if things should worsen.
Step 1: Go back and refill all the empty hand sanitizers in the office.
All of us act as mail carriers for any virus or bacteria. Hand sanitation is an easy way to prevent the spread of viruses through the workplace. Additionally, access to sanitation stations helps reduce anxiety for employees who are concerned with exposure.
Step 2: Check the air quality of your building(s).
Maintain and/or improve your building’s air quality by setting HVAC systems to fresh air. Also, set the HVAC system to the “on” setting rather than “auto” and use a high-quality air filter (preferably MERV 13) where possible. Fresh air movement and quality air filters can help reduce mold and other pollutants as well as keep your employees comfortable.
Step 3: Review your illness and absence policies.
What did you learn during the heart of COVID-19 pandemic you can apply going forward? What type of allowances do you have regarding employees who are ill and/or ill a family member of an employee and how long it might take to treat them? How will you treat high-risk employees who might be more negatively affected by exposure to these viruses? A key here is to ensure your employees feel empowered to stay home if they aren’t feeling well and until they are not contagious.
Step 4: Conduct regular cleaning with an emphasis on high-touch spots.
These viruses are killed by many of the over-the-counter disinfectants and disinfectant wipes. If possible, clean doors and frequently touched areas at least a couple of times a day.
Step 5: Practice your plan.
Conduct a table-top exercise of how you would handle a flu outbreak in your area and then if it came into the workplace. What are your company’s thresholds for remote work, spacing, masking, paid time off for illness, etc.?
Step 6: Have flu shot opportunities in the workplace.
Research demonstrates that flu vaccines do boost our immune system, and if they don’t always prevent the flu, they at least help reduce its impact, lessening the days out of work and the severity of the illness.
Talk with Your Risk Manager
Lastly, we know viruses are an inevitable visitor in workplaces. However, with good risk management, you can control your response, communicate positively and actively with your employees, and manage the virus’s impact on your workforce.
If you aren’t sure where to start with all of this or simply have questions, please don’t hesitate to send us an email! We’re happy to chat through your program and offer advice.
Published on: 12.15.22