Bloodborne pathogens, breathing issues 2007 target

The Association of Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) will take on bloodborne pathogen exposure, safe patient handling, and respiratory protection as its public policy issues for 2007 through 2009. AOHP membership named the three topics as the top public policy issues of concern to them in the coming two years.

Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure — AOHP advocates for a policy in which individual states remove the current statutory requirement for special written consent for HIV testing, so that exposure source testing in the case of a blood or body fluid exposure involving a health care worker can be expedited. AOHP will continue to push for safer sharps policies. The association says 57 health care workers in the United States have been documented as having seroconverted to HIV following occupational exposures, and of those, 26 have developed AIDS. Another 140 are reported with possible, though unconfirmed, seroconversion.

Timely testing of the source patient can shorten the time that HIV anti-viral prophylaxis is needed, eliminate the need for follow-up testing, and reduce the level of worker anxiety over the exposure, according to AOHP.

Safe Patient Handling — AOHP supports the use of lift/assist devices as the primary method for the prevention of back injuries, and calls for mechanical equipment to be provided for patient lifts, transfers, and repositioning.

Back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders related to patient handling are the leading cause of workplace disability for nurses and other direct patient care providers. Each year approximately 40,000 nurses report illnesses from back pain, representing more than three-quarters of a million lost workdays annually due to back injuries among nurses, and lifting is the cause for many of those injuries and lost workdays, according to AOHP.

Respiratory Protection — AOHP will advocate, during the next two years, for increased research, training, and education relating to respiratory protection from tuberculosis and other airborne respiratory transmissible diseases. Efforts will be directed toward enforcing, at the state and federal levels, regulations requiring annual respirator fit testing and training.

(For more information on AOHP and its two-year policy platform, visit www.aohp.org.)