Occupational exposure to tuberculosis--OSHA. Proposed rule and notice of public hearing.Fed Regist. 1997 Oct 17; 62(201):54160-308.FR
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing a health standard, to be promulgated under section 6(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. 655, to control occupational exposure to tuberculosis (TB). TB is a communicable, potentially lethal disease that afflicts the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor, the sick, the aged, and the homeless. As many as 13 million U.S. adults are presently believed to be infected with TB; over time, more than 1 million of these individuals may develop active TB disease and transmit the infection to others. TB remains a major health problem with 22,813 active cases reported in the U.S. in 1995. A number of outbreaks of this disease have occurred among workers in health care settings, as well as other work settings, in recent years. To add to the seriousness of the problem, some of these outbreaks have involved the transmission of multidrug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which are often fatal. Although it is the responsibility of the U.S. Public Health Service to address the problem of tuberculosis in the general U.S. population, OSHA is solely responsible for protecting the health of workers exposed to TB as a result of their job. OSHA estimates that more than 5 million U.S. workers are exposed to TB in the course of their work: in hospitals, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and other work settings. Because active TB is endemic in many U.S. populations, including groups in both urban and rural areas, workers who come into contact with diseased individuals are at risk of contracting the disease themselves. The risk confronting these workers as a result of their contact with TB-infected individuals may be as high as 10 times the risk to the general population. Although the number of reported cases of active TB has slowly begun to decline after a resurgence between 1985-1992, 16 states reported an increase in the number of TB cases in 1995, compared with 1994. Based on a review of the data, OSHA has preliminarily concluded that workers in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and certain other work settings are at significant risk of incurring TB infection while caring for their patients and clients or performing certain procedures. To reduce this occupational risk, OSHA is proposing a standard that would require employers to protect TB-exposed employees by means of infection prevention and control measures that have been demonstrated to be highly effective in reducing or eliminating job-related TB infections. These measures include the use of respirators when performing certain high hazard procedures on infectious individuals, procedures for the early identification and treatment of TB infection, isolation of individuals with infectious TB in rooms designed to protect those in the vicinity of the room from contact with the microorganisms causing TB, and medical follow-up for occupationally exposed workers who become infected. OSHA has preliminarily determined that the engineering, work practice, and administrative controls, respiratory protection, training, medical surveillance, and other provisions of the proposed standard are technologically and economically feasible for facilities in all affected industries.