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Pushback on infection reg may stall action
Proposed OSHA rule 'stuck in the mud'
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration may be becoming more cautious in its push for new regulations that include a standard on infectious diseases.
The agency is still pursuing an infectious disease standard and a rule requiring employers to have an injury and illness prevention program, but the most recent regulatory agenda indicates that progress will be slow on those initiatives.
California's Aerosol Transmissible Disease standard is thought to be a possible model for an OSHA standard, but OSHA indicated an interest in covering a range of transmission modes. In any case, the OSHA regulatory agenda shows no new action on an infectious diseases standard before the spring.
"The infectious disease rule appears to be stuck in mud," says Brad Hammock, Esq., workplace safety compliance practice group leader at Jackson Lewis LLP in the Washington DC region office. "They didn't even put a new specific upcoming action. They're still reviewing comments."
In January, President Obama issued an executive order directing agencies to review rules and identify ones that are "outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them..."
"It's hard right now to say what effect this might have on the health care industry, either [related to] current regulations or regulations in the future," says Pat O'Connor, director of government affairs for the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Washington, DC.
OSHA is simply not flexible enough to adapt to changes in infection control needed for an infectious disease standard, ACOEM said in its comments.
"ACOEM is concerned that an OSHA standard addressing the broad range of infectious agents other than bloodborne pathogens will take years to develop and finalize, that the knowledge base on which some of its components will be based will be outdated by the time the standard is passed, and that it will not be possible for OSHA to further develop its guidance to respond to novel infectious threats or advancements in our understanding of infectious disease transmission," it said.
Infection preventionists and infectious disease groups have expressed similar concerns about an OSHA infectious disease standard.
"While we understand OSHA's interest in creating a standard that maximally protects health care workers from infectious agents, we have concerns about the potential scope and breadth of this potential undertaking," Richard Whitley, MD, FIDSA, the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote to OSHA. "The advantages of establishing a new standard for [health care workers] can be easily outweighed by the unforeseen consequences caused by such a standard, particularly if the standard is not supported by scientific evidence."