One year ago, many of us first heard the word, Ebola. We watched as patients were flown to the United States to receive treatment. Then health workers were exposed to the virus from individuals who unknowingly traveled to the United States with the virus. Concern and uncertainty increased; every day we read and watched the news for the latest developments. We saw the images of individuals wearing contamination suits and the construction of special units to care for Ebola patients. As a result, extensive investigation and research ensued, conferences held and new procedures implemented to treat and combat the impact of Ebola. These events also affected the realm of Workers’ Compensation. The concern for employers included the impact on employees in various sectors of the workforce, especially in the medical field. I had several conferences with employers to discuss various plans of action and procedures, as did many of my colleagues. The events involving Ebola that began in the July of 2014 resulted in a great amount of preparedness. Now one year later, we are hard pressed to find any news on Ebola. The scare has passed and now the news focuses on other current events.
Now what can we learn from the events surrounding Ebola? History has always interested me, and during college I took a number of History courses. Often the professor would talk about “lessons learned,” essentially what the participants of a battle or historical event learned. So what did we learn from the Ebola crisis of 2014 from a Workers’ Compensation standpoint? I think the biggest lesson was preparedness. We saw a great amount of communication, problem solving and collaboration that occurred. This can provide a benefit, not just with a virus, but also in any work environment. Clearly, we cannot avoid all work injuries. Accidents happen and there are individuals, who quite honestly, look for opportunity. Conducting safety meetings, reviewing existing procedures and implementing new procedures and safeguards can go a long way in reducing potential hazards that can lead to a work injury. We can also learn from injuries in order to make changes that can eliminate future incidents. Working together as a team and brainstorming can help reduce workplace injuries, and we do not even have to wear a protective suit.