Each year, Employee Health (EH) departments implement core prevention strategies for the seasonal flu and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respiratory Protection standard, which includes annual fit testing.
Not only do these tasks get added to an already busy schedule, but they require multiple moving parts in order to:
- Provide and confirm flu vaccinations.
- Manage infections among staff and healthcare providers (HCPs).
- Conduct interim fit tests for new employees, those who have decided to switch to new respirators, and HCPs who have experienced facial changes that may affect the fit of their respirators.1
- Deliver educational materials to hospital staff.
- Implement environmental controls.2
- Show the kind of workplace incidents that have resulted from a lack of compliance.
Below, we’ll look at strategies for tackling the organizational challenges EH nurses and managers face when trying to stay fully compliant with all workplace health mandates during flu season.
Redesign the Respiratory Protection Program
Staying on top of compliance starts with a detailed roadmap. For EH departments, this typically takes the form of OSHA’s mandated written respiratory protection program spelled out in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.134(c). The program requires employers to create and update an individualized, written respiratory program with worksite-specific procedures for mitigating workplace hazards.3
Instead of seeing these updates as a bureaucratic task, the months before flu season is truly underway may be the right time to update and enhance this document to include more than the minimum guidelines. The more information included in the program, the easier it is to refer HCPs to the document instead of fielding individual questions. A detailed program also helps healthcare facilities demonstrate a strong commitment to safety (which in turn leads to higher retention rates, increased productivity, and reduced liability.)4
An expanded respiratory protection program may include:
- Frequently asked questions (and their answers).
- Differences in federal, state, local, and facility-specific requirements and the explanations for those differences.
- Links to evidence-based public health education documents for staff who are hesitant when it comes to vaccines.
Making staff aware of this document and posting it online for easy access and visibility can help reduce the number of emails and phone calls EH departments receive, saving precious time in the long run.
Let Employee Health Software Take a Load Off Staff’s Shoulders
Employee health software can help manage fit tests and flu season in a few different ways.
First, and most importantly, it can help eliminate piles of paperwork and post-its and organize deadlines, reminders, and appointments. A specialized software solution can also help EH staff identify and send reminders to non-compliant employees, eliminating the need to chase down HCPs who haven’t scheduled their flu shots and fit tests.
Employee Health software can also put some of the responsibility in the hands of the HCPs themselves. More sophisticated software can provide employees with an employee health portal and intuitive interface that allows them to:
- View and print all compliance requirements and records.
- Find out exactly which requirements apply to their specific situations.
- Track their progress towards completing requirements.
- Schedule their own appointments for vaccines and fit testing.
Embrace the Chance to Knock Out Two Compliance Tasks at Once
Performing fit testing during flu season may fill EH staff with dread during the winter months. But the right tools can help EH departments organize these tasks in a way that actually makes it easier for employees to get these annual appointments out of the way all at once.
The best way to find out if fit testing and flu season can be knocked out at the same time is to revisit internal guidelines and respiratory fit program protocols, expand the instructions and educational resources they provide to staff, and onboard the right technology to lend a hand in educating staff, recording their compliance, and empowering employees to schedule their own appointments.5
Note: Net Health makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any of the information presented herein. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the viewer’s responsibility to verify any and all information presented herein.
3 Best Practices for Employee Health Nurses
1 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Fit Testing Procedures (Mandatory),” August 4, 2004.
2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings,” May 13, 2021.
3 Minnesota Department of Health, “Components of a Respiratory Protection Program,” July 31, 2022.
4 EHS Today, “Workplace Safety More Important Than Ever for Employed Americans,” April 4, 2022.
5 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Employer Guidance Reducing Healthcare Workers’ Exposures to Seasonal Flu Virus,” August 3, 2022.