OSHA respirator rules: Reviewing the facts

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has added two new situations (Nos. 6 and 7) in the list below in which employees are required to wear respirators. The first five are based on CDC guidelines.

According to the proposed tuberculosis standard, health care workers are required to wear a respirator when:

1. entering an isolation room;

2. performing cough-generating procedures — inducing or aerosol — on an individual with suspected or confirmed infectious TB;

3. repairing or maintaining air systems that may contain aerosolized M tuberculosis;

4. transporting an individual with suspected or confirmed infectious TB in an enclosed vehicle;

5. working in a residence where an individual with suspected or confirmed infectious TB is known to be present;

6. transporting individuals with suspected or confirmed infectious TB within the facility if those individuals are not masked;

7. working in an area where an unmasked individual with suspected or confirmed infectious TB has been segregated or otherwise confined (such as those who work in admitting areas).

OSHA’s fit-testing requirements

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed TB standard states that employers should perform either quantitative or qualitative fit-tests in accordance with procedures outlined in the document.

OSHA plans to require employers to ensure that each employee who must wear a tight-fitting respirator passes a fit-test at the following designated times:

• at the time of initial fitting;

• whenever changes occur in the employee’s facial characteristics that affect the respirator’s fit;

• whenever a different size or make of respirator is used;

• at least annually thereafter, unless the annual determination required in the document’s medical surveillance section indicates that it is unnecessary.

Source: Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Occupational exposure to tuberculosis; proposed rule. Fed Reg 62; 54,159-54,307.