AAOHN encourages TB surveillance by OH nurses

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) in Atlanta is encouraging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington, DC, to require surveillance programs for tuberculosis (TB) in the workplace, but without requiring physician oversight.

Comments submitted to OSHA by AAOHN indicate that the occupational health nursing organization supports a standard that would protect employees from exposure to tuberculosis "through effective TB surveillance conducted by competent, qualified health care professionals." OSHA is reviewing comments on its proposed standard.

In supporting the promulgation of a tuberculosis standard, AAOHN states that it "urges OSHA to recognize the differentiation between health surveillance activities and medical treatment and follow-up in this and all future health standards." The statement goes on to say, "AAOHN strongly opposes any changes that would require physician supervision of TB surveillance programs and the independent practice of occupational health nurses, which would only serve to restrict employers’ and employees’ access to all qualified health care providers."

AAOHN also recommends that OSHA clarify the definition of "work-related exposure" in the final standard. The association says that employers should bear the burden of showing that an exposure was not work-related or incur the costs of medical removal of employees suffering occupational exposures.

A survey conducted recently by AAOHN indicates that in 71% of the work sites surveyed, occupational health nurses hold overall responsibility for health surveillance.