Aerosol transmissible disease standard approved for California

By: May 22nd, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

In what might be a harbinger for a federal law, California adopted the first standard designed to protect workers from aerosol transmitted diseases in the workplace, such as TB, SARS, measles, and pandemic influenza.

According to an item posted on the Occupational & Environmental Medicine list-serve at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the California OSHA Standards Board adopted the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard  May 21. The standard has been under consideration by the Board for two years.

In addition to healthcare facilities such as medical practices and hospitals, the standard would apply to  laboratories, emergency medical services, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities.

Currently there are no federal standards specific to ATDs, but remember, before there was a federal OSHA standard for bloodborne pathogens, California had one on the books.

Does the recent influenza A (H1N1) outbreak make a federal ATD standard more likely?

I think so.

Let me know your opinion in the comment section below.


By Kathryn Shaffer on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I have always wondered why TB was singled out when other airborne risks weren’t, especially in areas where there is little TB. But now, with the passage of this new Cal/OSHA rule, we may be seeing worker protections against not only TB but SARS, H1N1, measles, flu, not to forget molds, spores, mildews, lead dust, Aspergillus, as found in older buildings, or even things like sheet rock dust. It makes a lot of sense to replace the TB standard by just incorporating TB with all the other airborne particulate matter, of organic origin or not, and make one universal ATD standard.

By T. Mabalon on May 26th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

In addition, how about the use of ultra violet lighting or HEPA filters? Is one type more effective than the other – can UVL used alone or in combo with HEPA?
Thank you

By David LaHoda on May 26th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Environmental Control for Tuberculosis: Basic Upper-Room Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation Guidelines for Healthcare Settings was recently posted online by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The 87-page document provides guidance to healthcare facility designers and engineers about how to set up an effective upper-room UV germicidal irradiation system.

By Chuck Dunn on May 27th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

While the new CDC/NIOSH Guideline, and earlier TB guidelines mention “other pathogens” transmitted airborne via droplet nuclei, these organisms have not been cited specifically by name. It is known however that measles, influenza, and virus in general are more susceptable to UVC than TB. UVC systems meeting the updated CDC/Niosh Guideline for TB would be effective in reducing transmission of
ATD in general.

I see that while the CA standard requires that employees be provided vaccinations, it does not require that they get them. This is contrary to good infection control practices. OSHA did the same when they said healtcare workers had to be offered Hep B but it could not be mandated. We still have HCW’s getting Hep B.

How come the employer has to comply but employees do not?

By jason ross on June 23rd, 2009 at 12:19 pm

very good information .IM think im suffering from THESAUROSIS due to hairspray.

Does this mean CalOSHA will require the use of N95 respirators in healthcare facilities like dental offices? If so, what is the likelihood Federal OSHA will adopt this requirement?

By David LaHoda on July 14th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I don’t recall seeing any exemptions for dental practices. The new release from Cal/OSHA says the standard:

“will cover healthcare and related workplaces that typically treat, diagnose, or house individuals who may be ill such as hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters.”

If I were a betting person, I’d say a similar federal standard is a good bet.

By Eileen Kaplan on April 27th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

If we do not treat patients that are sick, have signs and symptoms of respiratory illness etc do we still need to do fit testing of n95. we are an outpt surgery center. we advise our pts not to come in if they are sick and if one does we would send them home. our policy states that.

By David LaHoda on April 27th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

If you have a documented administrative control that eliminates the possibility of exposure, no you would not need to provide N95 respirators.

If, however, you provide N95 respirators, you must fit test. All tight fitting face piece respirators require fit testing, except when used on a voluntary basis, according to OSHA’s respiratory protection standard.

See Fast-track guide to H1N1 OSHA compliance.

By Sean McDermott on July 19th, 2010 at 8:02 pm

All facilities affected by this regulation should take a look at the Zimek Technologies website Zimek has developed a touch free Room and Vehicle Decontamination System that is being used successfully around the country and the world to safely and rapidly eliminate airborne and surface infectious pathogens from the environments in healthcare facilities, public safety vehicles and correctional facilities, just to name a few!


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