Monday, December 7, 2009

The Department of Labor recently announced that it is considering whether the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)should establish a health standard for airborne infectious agents in health care settings and numerous other worksites. Such a standard would require some  employers to establish a comprehensive infection control program as well as control measures to protect employees from exposures to airborne pathogens that can cause significant disease

"OSHA is concerned about the ability of employees to continue to provide health care and other critical services without unreasonably jeopardizing their health," the department said in a recent regulatory notice. "...Health care workers and workers in related occupations or who are exposed in other high-risk environments are at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis, SARS, and other airborne infectious diseases which are spread through respiratory secretions which are exhaled or expelled though coughing, sneezing, etc. and can be transmitted through a variety of exposure routes."

In addition to health care, the agency listed other worksites where such control measures might be necessary:  emergency responses, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs,  laboratories which handle materials that may be a source of pathogens, and to pathologists, coroners’ offices, medical examiners, mortuaries.


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