Thursday, June 16, 2005

House Committee Again Forbids OSHA From Protecting Health Care Workers From TB

Once again, as expected, Congressman Roger Wicker (R-MS) is showing his industry friends that their campaign contributions are well spent. For the second year in a row, Wicker has succeeded in adding language to the House appropriations bill that would prohibit OSHA year from requiring hospitals do annual fit-testing of respirators designed to prevent occupational exposure to tuberculosis. The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Labor Sub-Committee voted June 9 to add the language to the FY 2006 Department of Labor spending bill. If passed by the full House and the House-Senate conference committee, this would make the second year that OSHA would be prohibited from requiring fit-testing.

Inside OSHA reports that because respirator fit-testing would protect health care workers from other air-borne disease as well -- including bioterrorism agents -- Democrats are arguing that national security would be threatened if healthcare workers are not protected from TB during emergency situations. Health care worker advocates are hoping that moderate Republicans will oppose Wicker's language when the full House votes.

Because the rider only applies to federal OSHA, state OSHA programs may enforce the fit-testing requirement. Washington State state OSHA has cited employers for not conducting fit-testing.

The committee's action comes almost exactly one year after the death of nurse Deborah Byrd Crysostomides from tuberculosis.

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