OSHA inspectors to ensure health care employers implement H1N1 controls
Officials said the agency will soon issue a compliance directive to ensure uniform procedures when conducting inspections to identify and minimize or eliminate high to very high risk occupational exposures to the H1N1 virus. According to OSHA, the directive will closely follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interim guidance on infection control measures for the H1N1 influenza in health care settings.
In response to complaints, the agency said inspectors will ensure that health care employers implement a hierarchy of controls, including source control, engineering and administrative measures, and encourage vaccination. Where respirators are required, OSHA said its respiratory protection standard must be followed, including worker training and fit testing.
The CDC recommends the use of respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit tested disposable N95 respirator for health care personnel who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with patients with suspected or confirmed H1N1 virus.
Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor, said that where respirators are not commercially available, an employer will be considered to be in compliance if it can show that a good-faith effort has been made to acquire respirators. The employer will also need to implement a hierarchy of controls such as feasible engineering controls, administrative controls, and the use, as appropriate, of personal protective equipment, such as gloves and respirators to protect workers while providing close-contact care.
Where inspectors determine that a facility has not violated any OSHA requirements but that additional measures could enhance the protection of employees, the agency said it may provide the employer with a hazard alert letter outlining suggested measures to further protect workers.
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November 16, 2009
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