In a letter to Jordan Barab, acting director of OSHA, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario urges the agency to take immediate action to protect healthcare workers, responders and other at high risk from workplace exposure to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus.

States Seminario: “As OSHA and CDC have recognized, health care workers, emergency responders and other workers who come into close contact with patients infected with the novel H1N1 virus are at increased risk of exposure and infection and require protection.

“Unfortunately, there is documented evidence that in a number of states and facilities, (CDC) guidelines (on the novel H1N1 virus) are not being followed.

Presently, OSHA has no standard for airborne infectious diseases or pandemic influenza.

“We request that OSHA immediately issue a hazard alert and/or compliance directive that makes clear that exposure to the novel H1N1 virus in healthcare settings and emergency response activities poses a recognized hazard to workers and requires protective measures.”

Seminario urged OSHA to immediately implement a policy using its existing authority to aggressively enforce safe work practices through the application of its standards on PPE and respiratory protection, and the general duty clause.

“Taking these steps will make clear to healthcare employers their obligations to protect workers, and will reaffirm to healthcare workers that the government is taking the necessary steps to ensure that they are protected,” said Seminario.

Seminario’s letter was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the United Auto Workers, Laborers International Union of North America, the Service Employees International Union and the United Steelworkers.