The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has scheduled two meetings to discuss the possible development of a proposed rule to protect workers from occupational exposure to infectious diseases.

OSHA plans to gather comments on strategies that are currently used to reduce the risk of workplace exposure to infectious agents, and to more accurately distinguish the nature and extent of occupationally-acquired infectious diseases. Based on the responses received and an ongoing review of literature on this subject, OSHA is considering development of a proposed program standard to control worker exposures to infectious agents.

The discussion will include direct patient care and other work tasks, such as providing patient support services (housekeeping, facility maintenance); and handling, transporting, receiving or processing infectious items or wastes (e.g., transporting medical specimens, disposing of medical waste).

Meeting discussions will also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of using a program standard to limit occupational exposure to infectious diseases; whether and to what extent an OSHA standard should require employers to develop a written worker infection control plan that documents how employers will implement infection control measures to protect workers; and whether and to what extent OSHA should take alternative approaches to rulemaking to improve compliance with current infection control guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and other authoritative agencies.

Two meetings will be held in Washington, DC July 29. Potential participants should request a confirmed spot by July 22.

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