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DOL/OSHA RIN: 1218-AC46 Publication ID: Spring 2017 
Title: Infectious Diseases 
Abstract:

Employees in health care and other high-risk environments face long-standing infectious disease hazards such as tuberculosis (TB), varicella disease (chickenpox, shingles), and measles (rubeola), as well as new and emerging infectious disease threats, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and pandemic influenza. Health care workers and workers in related occupations, or who are exposed in other high-risk environments, are at increased risk of contracting TB, SARS, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other infectious diseases that can be transmitted through a variety of exposure routes. OSHA is concerned about the ability of employees to continue to provide health care and other critical services without unreasonably jeopardizing their health. OSHA is developing a standard to ensure that employers establish a comprehensive infection control program and control measures to protect employees from infectious disease exposures to pathogens that can cause significant disease. Workplaces where such control measures might be necessary include: health care, emergency response, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. A standard could also apply to laboratories, which handle materials that may be a source of pathogens, and to pathologists, coroners' offices, medical examiners, and mortuaries.

 
Agency: Department of Labor(DOL)  Priority: Economically Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Long-Term Actions 
Major: Undetermined  Unfunded Mandates: No 
EO 13771 Designation: uncollected 
CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910   
Legal Authority: 5 U.S.C. 533    29 U.S.C. 657 and 658    29 U.S.C. 660    29 U.S.C. 666    29 U.S.C. 669    29 U.S.C. 673   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need:

OSHA is considering the need for regulatory action to address the risk to workers exposed to infectious diseases in healthcare and other related high-risk environments. Especially given recent events necessitating the careful treatment of individuals with life-threatening infectious diseases, OSHA is concerned about the risk posed to healthcare workers with the movement of healthcare delivery from the traditional hospital setting into more diverse and smaller workplace settings. The Agency initiated the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Panel process in the spring of 2014.

Summary of the Legal Basis:

5 U.S.C. 533; 29 U.S.C. 657 and 658; 29 U.S.C. 666; 29 U.S.C. 669; 29 U.S.C. 673

Alternatives:

OSHA offered several alternatives to the SBREFA panel when presenting the proposed Infectious Disease(ID) rule. OSHA considered a specification oriented rule rather than a performance oriented rule, but this type of rule would provide less flexibility and would likely fail to anticipate all of the potential hazards and necessary controls for every type and every size of facility and would under-protect workers. Exempting small entities from the rule was considered, but approximately 1.5 million of the estimated 9 million workers affected by the rule as outlined in the regulatory framework work in very small entities, leaving these workers under-protected. OSHA also considered changing the scope of the rule restricting the ID rule to workers who have occupational exposure during the provision of direct patient care in institutional settings but based on the evidence thus far analyzed, those workers performing other covered tasks in both institutional and non-institutional settings face a risk of infection because of their occupational exposure. Per the proposed rule, employers would be required to provide medical removal protection (MRP) benefits. If OSHA eliminated the requirement for MRP benefits, workers might be deterred from reporting signs and symptoms that could be indicative of infection and might work while sick (due to concerns about loss of pay or other such punitive consequences), potentially resulting in further infections to co-workers and/or patients. OSHA also considered the option of not requiring employers to make vaccinations available to workers. Vaccination is generally considered an important component of an effective infection control program, as it protects inoculated workers from infections, lessens chances of outbreaks by minimizing transmission of infections from workers to other workers and patients, and may also lessen the duration and severity of infections, depending on the efficacy of the vaccine. 

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:

Undetermined.

Risks:

During provision of direct patient care and the performance of other covered tasks as outlined in the scope of the SBREFA alternatives, workers are at risk for exposure to infections agents. The peer-reviewed literature suggests that HCWs are especially at risk of occupationally-acquired infections (OAIs) during the early stages of the emergence of novel infectious agents or during unexpected outbreaks of known infectious agents. While the patients who are the most ill with infectious diseases are most likely being treated in hospitals, many patients with infectious diseases are treated in ambulatory care settings during the early stages of the disease while they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. An increasing number of patients who are ill and symptomatic with an infectious disease are getting initial treatment at clinics that have urgent care or immediate care services, rather than being treated at hospital emergency rooms. Many patients with childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps and pertussis are being treated at clinics, not hospitals, unless they have severe cases. Currently, outbreaks of measles, mumps and pertussis are occurring in various countries, including the U.S. Elderly patients who are among the most susceptible to severe disease are increasingly receiving home healthcare rather than at institutionalized settings.  Workers in laboratories are tasked with the identification of infectious agents causing outbreaks and are similarly at greater risks of OAIs as a result of frequent exposures. OSHA believes that the 1998 and 2007 CDC/HICPAC guidelines, along with other authoritative guidance documents (e.g., CDC/NIH, 2009), and hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, demonstrate a well-recognized risk of occupational exposure to infectious agents for workers providing direct patient care and/or performing other covered tasks.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
Request for Information (RFI)  05/06/2010  75 FR 24835   
RFI Comment Period End  08/04/2010    
Analyze Comments  12/30/2010    
Stakeholder Meetings  07/05/2011  76 FR 39041   
Initiate SBREFA  06/04/2014 
Complete SBREFA  12/22/2014 
NPRM  To Be Determined 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: Local, State 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions  Federalism: Undetermined 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
William Perry
Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue NW., FP Building, Room N-3718,
Washington, DC 20210
Phone:202 693-1950
Fax:202 693-1678
Email: perry.bill@dol.gov