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New York employers urged to prioritize Ebola preparedness

by jmaloni


Thu, Oct 16th 2014 05:55 pm

NYCOSH releases fact sheets to help protect health care workers, airport workers and the general public amid growing concern over Ebola

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health has teamed up with the New York State Nurses Association, 32BJ SEIU and DC37 to urge employers to make Ebola preparedness a top priority.

NYCOSH released new Ebola factsheets to better educate them and the public at large on how Ebola is transmitted and what protections are necessary for workers who may come into contact with Ebola-infected patients or infectious body fluids.

One factsheet is aimed at the general worker population, with special emphasis on health care workers; the second is targeted at airport workers.

Both fact-sheets can be downloaded and read here:



Today's release is part of an ongoing public education campaign on worker protection and Ebola led by NYCOSH, a leading voice for workplace safety and health in New York.

"Workers in health care facilities and at airports are on the frontlines of this public health crisis," said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH executive director. "With the first documented cases of Ebola in the U.S., employers need to provide thorough training for their employees. At a minimum, workers must be given face-to-face interactive training on how to put on and take off their personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of Ebola."

NYCOSH also pointed to the results of the recent National Nurses Union study, which found most nurses think their hospitals are not adequately prepared for the Ebola virus.

"Much more needs to be done to educate all workers, as lack of information leads to heightened fear and confusion," Obernauer said, referring to OSHA's blood-borne pathogens standard. "Employers need to protect their workers, and that requires proper planning, training and resources. When workers are protected, public health is also protected."

Unions spoke to the need to ensure adequate, hands-on training for nurses - in addition to personal protective gear - so they can focus on providing safe, quality care to potential Ebola patients in New York.

"As nurses, our No. 1 priority is to provide safe, quality care to every patient," said Jill Furillo, RN, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. "We need protocols in place, and adequate hands-on training and protective gear so that we are prepared to safely and appropriately respond to epidemics of infectious diseases. We are calling on hospitals across the state to join with us to ensure that every possible measure is taken to protect patients and caregivers from the spread of Ebola virus disease."

"Coordination among agencies at all levels of government is critical in preventing the spread of Ebola," said Guillermina Mejia, safety and health director at DC37. "The City of New York should immediately adopt strict protocols and procedures and implement them in both clinical and nonclinical settings. Education and training as well as hands-on drills are important steps towards breaking the chain of infection. DC 37 and other unions are meeting with city representatives to address potential risks to our members if a case is diagnosed in the city."

Additionally, 32BJ SEIU spoke to the need for increased training for workers who are exposed to blood or potentially infectious materials on the job, particularly airport workers.

"Airport workers are in contact with bodily fluids almost every day," said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. "During the Ebola and infectious disease awareness training that 32BJ held, we heard from so many airport workers who do not feel safe on the job, who said they do not receive adequate personal protective equipment that they need to avoid these potentially hazardous conditions. Contractors should follow OSHA regulations and provide this equipment now, so workers can keep themselves safe."

NYCOSH is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the right of every worker to a safe and healthful workplace.

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