OSHA Updates Tuberculosis Inspection Procedures

By Roy Maurer Jul 17, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued updated instructions for tuberculosis (TB) hazard inspections including expanding covered health care settings, citing employers for missing risk assessments and decreasing the frequency of tuberculosis screening for some workers.

The directive replaces instructions from 1996 with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in Health-Care Settings, 2005.

OSHA stated that the directive does not add any enforcement burdens for employers and “simply updates the agency’s inspection procedures with the most currently available public health guidance.”

The directive expands which workplaces are considered covered health care settings to include sites where emergency medical services are provided and laboratories handling clinical specimens that may contain tuberculosis.

Other changes include:

  • Instructing inspectors to cite employers for failing to conduct risk assessments for TB. The CDC recommends that employers conduct initial and ongoing evaluations of the risk for tuberculosis transmission regardless of whether patients with suspected or confirmed TB are expected to be encountered in the facility. The three new screening risk classifications are low risk, which applies to settings in which workers are not expected to encounter people with TB; medium risk, which applies to settings in which workers will or will possibly be exposed to people with TB; and potential ongoing transmission, which applies temporarily to any setting where there is evidence of person-to-person transmission of tuberculosis during the preceding year. The categories determine the frequency of TB screening, which is decreased for some workers compared to the previous guidelines.
  • Introducing a newer screening method for analyzing blood for TB.

According to the CDC, nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, which kills almost 1.5 million people per year. In 2013, 9,582 TB cases were reported in the United States, and approximately 383 of those cases were among health care workers.

TB infection occurs when a susceptible person inhales droplets from an infected person who, for example, coughs, speaks or sneezes. It is the second most common cause of death from infectious disease in the world after HIV/AIDS.

More information on hazard recognition and solutions for reducing or eliminating the risks of contracting tuberculosis is available on OSHA’s Tuberculosis Safety and Health Topics page.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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