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Medical Environment Update—Evaluating the possibility of an OSHA infectious diseases standard

The feature topic in the July issue of Medical Environment Update [1] looks at how a new infectious diseases standard would affect compliance within medical facilities. The article covers:

Here is an excerpt from that article and a look at what else is covered in the July issue.

For some time, the healthcare community has been anticipating a new OSHA regulation, most likely in the form of an aerosol transmissible disease (ATD) standard similar to the regulation promulgated in California under the state-run Cal/OSHA program.

But during a regulatory Web chat on April 26, David Michaels, MD, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, announced that OSHA would focus instead on a broader infectious diseases standard, rather than the ATD standard that was foreshadowed in a regulatory agenda announcement last fall.

“This really came out of the blue,” says Bruce Cunha, manager of employee health and safety at the Marshfield (WI) Clinic. “We were obviously expecting that they would do a respiratory standard like California’s, and even that has its own issues, but this one is so much more encompassing.”

On May 6, OSHA officially released a request for information (RFI) for public comment on occupational exposure to infectious disease, specifically in healthcare settings. Although the Bloodborne Pathogens standard and the Respiratory Protection standard do address some infection control hazards, currently OSHA does not have a standard that protects workers from airborne, droplet, and contact modes of transmission.

“OSHA is interested in strategies that are being used in such healthcare and other healthcare-related work settings to mitigate the risk of occupationally- acquired infectious diseases,” the RFI says. “As such, OSHA would like to collect information and data on the facilities and the tasks potentially exposing workers to this risk; successful employee infection control programs; control methodologies being utilized (including engineering, work practice, and administrative controls and personal protective equipment); medical surveillance programs; and training. OSHA will use the information received in response to this request to determine what action, if any, the Agency may take to further limit the spread of occupationallyacquired infectious diseases in these types of settings.”

Also, see the Web-exclusive post, “OSHA explains what’s behind the push for an infectious diseases standard [2].”

The Medical Environment Update [1] July issue also includes:

Click on the links for more information about subscribing to Medical Environment Update [1] and the OSHA Program Manual [5].