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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

US Department of Labor: Spring Regulatory Agenda 2010

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Topic: Infectious Diseases

The risk of the nationís 16.5 million healthcare and social service workers from infectious diseases is of particular concern to OSHA. Workplace-acquired infections are a persistent problem and there are also increasing levels of drug-resistant microorganisms in healthcare settings. Moreover, most current infections control efforts are intended primarily for patient protection and not for worker protection. OSHA has developed a request for information on infectious diseases to better assess the extent of the problem and better understand ways to protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases.

Background

  • OSHA is primarily concerned about occupational exposure to infectious diseases in healthcare facilities. The primary routes of transmission in healthcare settings are contact, droplet, and airborne.
  • A request for information will soon be published.
  • The information received in response to the RFI will be carefully reviewed and will assist OSHA in determining what action, if any, the Agency should take in this area.

Overview of Infectious Disease Request for Information

  • OSHA is developing a request for information on infectious diseases to better assess the extent of the problem and better understand ways to protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases.
  • OSHA is revising the scope of the request for information (as previously announced in the Fall 2009 DOL Regulatory Agenda) from airborne infectious diseases to now consider all of the possible routes of infectious disease transmission.
  • The revision will allow the Agency to consider the full range of infectious disease hazards that healthcare workers face and also more closely aligns the overall approach to infection control used in existing CDC guidance and industry standards.

Public Notice and Comment on the Request for Information

The Department will publish the Request for Information in the Federal Register. The Request for Information invites public comments from interested persons on issues relevant to regulation workplaces susceptible to infectious disease transmission. Public comments can be submitted electronically by email to e-ORI@dol.gov or by using the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. All comments will be available to the public, without charge, online at www.regulations.gov.

Benefits of Infectious Disease Request for Information

  • The RFI will solicit information on a variety of topics related to infectious diseases including:
    • How diseases are most commonly transmitted and the practices currently in place to safeguard workers;
    • The implementation of recognized infection control measures in preventing occupational infection of workers, and to what extent voluntary measures currently in place are being followed; and
    • OSHA is also seeking information concerning other workplaces that may have an elevated exposure risk.

Stakeholders Affected by the Request for Information

  • The RFI will assist OSHA in determining the number of healthcare workers in traditional and non-traditional healthcare settings who are at risk of exposure to infectious diseases.
  • It is too early to determine the number of stakeholders who will be affected at this time.

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This fact sheet has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington, DC 20210. Voice phone: 202.693.3200; TTY: 1.877.889.5627.