Skip to page content
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

US DEPARTMENT of LABOR: FALL REGULATORY AGENDA 2009

Office of Safety and Health (OSHA)

Topic: Request for Information: Airborne Infectious Diseases

Protecting workers from airborne infectious diseases supports the Secretary's vision of "good jobs for everyone" by securing safe and healthy workplaces for workers.

Key Action: OSHA intends to publish a Request for Information (RFI) to help examine how to improve worker protection from occupational exposure to airborne diseases.

Key RFI Issues
The RFI will gather information on a variety of topics related to airborne infectious diseases. OSHA is interested in the following data points and issues.

  • Studies and data describing the nature and scope of occupational exposure and illness from airborne infectious diseases.
  • The efficacy of current control measures for reducing occupational exposures.
  • Components of an effective infection control program.
  • Information to help decide whether or not to pursue rulemaking.

Background
Airborne infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and influenza can be spread from person-to-person through large or small droplets that are expelled during coughing, talking and sneezing. OSHA is interested in protecting health care workers from these and other similar airborne infectious diseases. Protecting workers from airborne infectious diseases supports the Secretary's vision of "good jobs for everyone" by securing safe and healthy workplaces for workers.

The risk to the nation's 13 million healthcare workers is of particular concern to the Agency. Healthcare acquired infections are on the rise. There are also increasing levels of antibiotic resistant microorganisms in healthcare settings. Moreover, most infection control guidance is written primarily for patient protection and not for worker protection.

In March 2010, the agency intends to publish a Request for Information (RFI) to help examine airborne infectious diseases with focus on the following:

  • Healthcare Organizations: OSHA is interested in the implementation of recognized infection control measures in preventing occupational infection ofworkers. There is evidence that a lack of adherence to voluntary infection control recommendations has resulted in the transmission of disease to workers. OSHA is seeking information on the extent to which voluntary recommendations are being followed and whether mandatoryregulations would be more effective.
  • Other Workplaces: OSHA is also seeking information concerning other workplaces that may have an elevated occupational exposure risk, including: emergency responders (e.g. EMS), correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, schools, laboratory settings and other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure (e.g., coroners' offices).