How Will Ebola Scare Affect OSHA Disease Standards?
When it comes to the safety of employees, one of the most dangerous places one can work is in a hospital. Hospital workers work long shifts surrounded by people with a variety of ailments. It is easy to be exposed to bodily fluids, which sometimes transmit diseases.
Hospitals are full of dangerous chemicals, toxic drugs and powerful devices, such as X-ray and MRI machines, which can easily cause injury or death if utilized incorrectly. Highly infectious diseases such as MRSA, SARS and most recently Ebola are risks workers face every day.
OSHA currently does not have a specific protocol to address workplace hazards caused by infectious disease. The closest it has to one is its Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, which dictates employer policies in the incidence of bloodborne diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis C.
Agency officials have been arguing for a formal standard for infectious disease enforcement for a long time, believing it would help enforcement of their policies to avoid catastrophes like the ones that happened due to the Texas Ebola scare a few weeks ago. Government guidelines, officials argue, are not enforceable – the CDC cannot force any company to behave a certain way, it can only make suggestions.
Their arguments appear to have been heard. OSHA recently posted a 38-page document on its website titled “OSHA’s Infection Diseases Regulatory Framework.” This document will set in motion the creation of policies to help limit the spread of deadly diseases such as Ebola.
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