What CUPE members need to know and do to prepare for Human Swine Influenza A (H1N1), commonly called swine flu.
(H1N1) Flu Virus (Human Swine Influenza) has been reported in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and at least twenty other countries around the world.
If in your work you are in frequent close contact with the public (one meter of less) consult with your joint health and safety committee or your health and safety representative.
Examples of jobs with high levels of public contact include:
- health care,
- emergency response,
- acute and long-term care,
- community care,
CUPE members who sit on joint health and safety committees or who act as health and safety representatives should request a meeting to review their workplace pandemic influenza plans.
Employers are legally responsible for protecting their workers from all work-related hazards, including exposure to infectious diseases like human swine influenza.
At the meeting:
- check that plans protect the health and safety of workers if the human swine influenza outbreak develops into a pandemic.
- make sure internal and external communications plans are up-to-date and will work if an emergency is declared.
Workers and employers should work together to ensure that everyone is well informed and understands their rights, roles and responsibilities.
Those who will be expected to work in close contact with people potentially ill from human swine influenza must be provided with suitable personal protective equipment, including fit-tested and NIOSH-approved N-95 respirators, gloves, gowns and eye protection. All surfaces that have been potentially contaminated with respiratory secretions should be cleaned with an appropriate disinfectant.
- Pandemic influenza Fact Sheet: provides information on the spread of the disease and guidance on preventing exposures.
- Backgrounder on health care associated infections: highlights the importance of cleaning, laundry and other support services in infection prevention and control.
Workers’ right to refuse unsafe work
Provincial and federal occupational health and safety legislation provides workers with the right to refuse work they believe will endanger themselves or other workers.
Some provinces (including Ontario) and some sectors under federal jurisdiction (including airlines) limit the right to refuse work.
Ontario and Alberta health care, emergency response and education workers do not have the right to refuse work if their refusal endangers another person or if the hazard is part of their work.
For more information, see CUPE’s guide to the right to refuse unsafe work.
Frequent updates on the Human Swine Influenza outbreak are available at: