Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


OSHA: TB Standard? What TB Standard?

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Gerald W. McEntee today petitioned Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to immediately issue its long overdue tuberculosis (TB) standard to protect American workers against exposure to TB, a standard that will also protect workers against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). AFSCME was among the unions to originally petition the agency for a TB standard almost 10 years ago.

OSHA originally proposed a TB standard in 1997 and was close to issuing the standard when the Bush Administration came in and immediately shoved it to the back burner. OSHA even has a Compliance Directive enabling the agency to enforce violations of best practices for TB control. The standard was strongly opposed by such organizations as the American Hospital Assocation.Thirteen people have died of SARS in Canada and there have been 193 suspected cases in the U.S., but no deaths.

In what might be considered an understatement, James August, director of occupational safety and health for AFSCME warned that
"There is great anxiety among health-care workers that it could happen here because of international travel. And there is no reason to think it couldn't, given what happened in Toronto."
AFSCME was one of several unions to originally petition OSHA for a TB standard in 1995.

What's most interesting about this saga is that OSHA just posted a SARS Web Page. And although there are tons of references to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and references on its SARS webpage, there's not a single reference to tuberculosis, despite the fact that OSHA has an extensive TB webpage describing the same precautions that are needed to protect health care workers and others against SARS. Is the agency embarassed that it had deepsixed the standard when it's clear now that it was needed?

Actually, it's clear that a TB standard was already needed. Athough a serious outbreak several years ago was controlled, TB is still a serious problem in the United States. Drug resistant strains are especially deadly. And, as OSHA documents, in its Web Page, "TB is the leading cause of death due to an infectious agent in the world," which means it's a major problem among immigrants in the U.S.and anyone who is exposed to them.

AFSCME's petition referenced a National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2001 Report that "Overall, the committee concludes that tuberculosis remains a threat to some health care, correctional facility, and other workers in the United States. Although the risk has been decreasing in recent years, vigilance is still needed within hospitals, prison, and similar workplaces, as well as in the community at large." The IOM study also concluded that an OSHA standard was necessary to protect workers.

On the other hand, OSHA has designed an attractive SARS logo and the agency, which has basically gone out of the regulations business, has included its usual legal disclaimer on the SARS web page, assuring employers that while they can be cited under the General Duty Clause for not providing a safe workplace, the the information on its web site is not "itself is not a new standard or regulation, and it creates no new or independent legal obligations." Wouldn't actually want to cite employers for not protecting their employees.

According to a Reuters article, "Officials at OSHA declined comment." Must be busy with homeland security, and voluntary guidelines and, uh, stuff.

Labels:




Go To My Main Page

Google Groups Subscribe to Confined Space
Email:
Browse Archives at groups.google.com




Google
Search WWW Search Confined Space

/div>

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this Blog are my own and do not, in any way, shape or form, reflect or represent the views or policies of my employer. Links to or from other websites of individuals or organizations do not constitute an endorsement of these views.
Looking for Confined Space Safety Information?
Click Here

Google
Search Web Search Confined Space

Greatest Hits


BP Texas City Explosion Stories

2006 Mine Disaster Stories

Popcorn Lung Stories

Speech on Receiving the APHA Lorin Kerr Award
by Jordan Barab, November 9, 2004


Acts of God, Acts of Man," by Jordan Barab, Working USA

Lies, Partisanship Caused Ergo Standard to Crumble, by Jordan Barab, Safety + Health, February 2002

A Week of Death, by Jordan Barab, Hazards, February 5, 2003

Archives


March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007

Recent Posts



FINALIST

Koufax Award

For Best Single Issue Blog of 2003 and 2004