The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of Washington State (OSHA) will be meeting in late July to begin talks on the risks of infectious disease exposure in the workplace. Using research, feedback and other information from these meetings, OSHA will assess the possibility of developing new workplace regulations aimed at protecting employees from infectious agents. Worker risk is especially high in healthcare professions where workers administer direct care to patients; however, OSHA talks will cover all workplace environments in which workers may be exposed to infection. The meetings will take place in late July and early August in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year OSHA published a “Request for Information on Infectious Diseases.” The agency was looking to compile various strategies and practices that have been effective in reducing workers’ risk of occupational exposure to infectious agents. Moreover, officials at OSHA wanted to establish accurate distinctions between the nature and extent of various work-related infectious diseases. Using feedback from healthcare professionals and the larger business community, as well as internal research on the issue, the agency is now debating whether to create a program standard aimed as reducing infectious agents in the workplace.
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, released a statement claiming “We know that workers in healthcare and related facilities may be exposed to infectious agents, and they deserve to be protected. Information gained from these meetings will help us determine the best approach to assure that workers don’t put themselves at risk while caring for patients and doing their job. After all, a good job is a healthy and safe job.”
On the agenda for the upcoming meetings in Washington, DC is a discussion of the relative merits and disadvantages of implementing a program standard to control occupational exposure to infectious agents; whether (and to what extent) employers should be required to provide an OSHA-approved infection control plan that would outline the implementation of infection control measures for protecting workers; and finally, the possibility of alternative approaches to OSHA rulemaking intended to enhance compliance with existing infection control guidelines under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, and other public health agencies.
Under the 1970 U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace. In its capacity as the act’s regulatory agency, OSHA creates and enforces standards and provides training and assistance to workers to ensure the safety of working conditions across the U.S.
If you believe you are suffering from a work-related illness or injury, a Washington Workers Compensation Lawyer can help investigate and support your claim.