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OSHA compliance directive addresses flu prevention for health care workers (11/24)

November 24, 2009
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OSHA has issued a compliance directive to ensure uniform procedures when conducting inspections to identify and minimize or eliminate high to very high risk occupational exposures to the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus.

The directive closely follows the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance.

OSHA inspectors will ensure that health care employers implement a hierarchy of controls, and encourage vaccination and other work practices recommended by the CDC. Where respirators are required to be used, the OSHA Respiratory Protection standard must be followed, including worker training and fit testing. The directive also applies to institutional settings where some workers may have similar exposures, such as schools and correctional facilities.

The CDC recommends the use of respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit-tested disposable N95 respirator for health care personnel who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with patients who have suspected or confirmed 2009 H1N1 influenza.

Where respirators are not commercially available, an employer will be considered to be in compliance if the employer can show a good faith effort has been made to acquire respirators.

Where OSHA inspectors determine that a facility has not violated any OSHA requirements but that additional measures could enhance the protection of employees, OSHA may provide the employer with a hazard alert letter outlining suggested measures to further protect workers.

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