James Schluter, Holding Redlich Lawyer, Microbiologist and Biochemist, warns that Australia appears to have failed the swine flu test. Schluter will address occupational health and safety professionals at Queensland Safety Conference to tell that they must take a leading role in preparing for a serious flu outbreak. If not, 60% to 70% of Australians could be sick to go to work.
Schluter has pointed to an infection rate that places Australia as the highest of any country outside North America. Since health screening at the border relied on an 'honour' system, swine flu was inevitable in Australia. Swine flu has provided Australia with a low risk 'dry run' on the government's influenza pandemic plan. It has revealed significant holes in that plan and a shortage of resources to properly implement it. In one case, the children were placed in quarantine but the mother was free to go to work.
Schluter have questioned the effectiveness of community awareness campaigns surrounding the flu. At the Queensland Safety Conference, organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences , Schlute will tell occupational health and safety professionals that employers must encourage a new workplace culture of infection prevention.
According to Schluter, the government had lost control of any real engagement with the community. The public assumed that the government was engaging in scare tactics or diverting attention from other issues. They were then faced with conflicting messages from governments. People thought they would be sick for a couple of days and better in a week. There were not enough messages to explain what people need to do to reduce the risk of infection.
Schluter stressed that the frontline people of control are Australia's occupational health and safety professionals but the flu is misconstrued as a public health issue. The workplace is a key area for transmission of disease, so it is essential that the workplace and OH&S professionals are engaged, actively educated by scientists and health experts, and part of the control campaign.
The Queensland Safety Conference is presented by the Queensland and Northern Territory division of the Safety Institute of Australia. The conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre with the Queensland Safety Show. More than 200 companies will showcase new workplace safety products and services at the event.