Let My People BreatheBill Borwegen from SEIU reports that the final House Appropriations Committee report includes language urging OSHA to consider an airborne disease standard. This language recognizes that OSHA has clearly not done enough to require employers to protect healthcare workers from intentional and unintentional airborne biological threats.
Readers of Confined Space may remember that instead of addressing these issues, OSHA recently trashed its proposed Tuberculosis Standard, the closest proxy to an airborne disease standard, despite a conclusion from the Institute of Medicine that a standard was needed.
Here is the text from the House bill. Not sure what's happening on the Senate side yet.
House Report 108-188 - DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATION BILL, 2004
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
In the face of uncertain risk to their own health and that of their families, our country's doctors, nurses and other health care workers have courageously stepped forward to provide professional and compassionate care to patients with a variety of newly emerging, naturally occurring airborne infectious diseases such as SARS and monkeypox. With SARS, approximately half of all suspected and probable SARS cases in Canada are among health care workers who become infected while caring for their patients.
With our country confronting these new airborne biological threats, we have asked our health care professionals to do more to protect all of us. These workers have responded. The Committee believes that the Congress now owes a debt of gratitude and has a responsibility to protect these same health care workers from the occupational hazards they face, so that they can focus on doing the best job possible in caring for, and treating their patients.
To protect health care workers from newly emerging intentional and unintentional airborne infectious disease threats, the Committee urges OSHA to consider an airborne disease standard.