A new toolkit released jointly by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) is aimed at helping health care industry employers protect hospital staff from respiratory hazards on the job.

The Hospital Respiratory Protection Toolkit* includes information provided by The Joint Commission, an accrediting body for more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Respirators are used to protect workers from exposures to airborne transmissible infectious diseases as well as chemicals and certain drugs that may be used in healthcare settings. OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard requires health care employers to establish and maintain a respiratory protection program in workplaces where workers may be exposed to respiratory hazards.

Can be customized

The toolkit covers respirator use, existing public health guidance on respirator use during exposure to infectious diseases, hazard assessment, the development of a hospital respiratory protection program, and additional resources and references on hospital respiratory protection programs. Appendix D is an editable document that each hospital can customize to meet its specific needs.

"Hospitals are one of the most hazardous places to work," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "One of the ways that we can protect workers in a health care setting is by providing employers with the resources needed to ensure a safe workplace. This toolkit will help protect those workers who dedicate their lives to caring for others."

A "vital line of defense"

“Appropriate respiratory protection is a vital line of defense against airborne hazards hospital workers might face on the job,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This toolkit is an important resource to help health care employers ensure their workers are out of harm’s way when it comes to respiratory hazards.”

Additional information to protect hospital workers from injuries is also available on OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals webpage.