OSHA considers measures to protect against infectious diseases
A Request for Information on Infectious Diseases in May generated more than 200 comments. The agency has also solicited input during recent stakeholder meetings.
OSHA has sought information to more accurately distinguish the nature and extent of occupationally acquired infectious diseases, as well as strategies being used to reduce workplace exposure to infectious agents.
Workers most at risk of exposure include those who provide direct patient care. Also, workers who provide patient support services (for example, housekeeping and facility maintenance);transporting medical specimens and disposing of medical waste (for example, handling, transporting, receiving, or processing infectious items or wastes); conducting autopsies or performing mortuary services; and performing tasks in laboratories.
A program standard generally includes:
- A hazard assessment.
- A written exposure control plan.
- Methods of compliance, such as engineering controls, work practice controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
- Medical surveillance.
- Worker training.
- Signage and labeling.
The agency said a program standard to control occupational exposure to infectious diseases would likely include all the elements.
From the input it is reviewing, OSHA is considering the advantages and disadvantages of using a program standard. If a program standard is warranted, the agency would look into the extent to which it should require employers to develop a written worker infection control plan that documents how employers will implement infection control measures to protect workers.
Also under consideration is whether and to what extent OSHA should take alternative approaches to rulemaking to improve compliance with current infection control guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other authoritative agencies.
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August 8, 2011
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