New NIOSH TB manual provides practical help

OSHA ruling won’t alter much, expert predicts

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, better known as NIOSH, has published a new manual for health care facilities on how to set up a respiratory protection program. Titled TB Respiratory Protection in Health Care Facilities, the publication marks the first time NIOSH has offered such a guide explicitly tailored to health care facilities.

According to Nancy Bollinger, deputy director of the health effects laboratory division at NIOSH, the new document offers lots of helpful explanations, illustrations, and sample documents; it’s designed to help readers translate the sometimes lofty language set forth in guidelines and regulations into usable, everyday language, she adds.

"Sometimes when you read you have to implement such-and-such,’ it sounds very complex," she says. "The guide tries to make it more practical. There are sample documents that show standard operating procedures, fill-in-the-blank forms, checklists, and other information on how you go about doing various things."

The new manual incorporates current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as current regulations in effect at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). When and if OSHA finally gets around to enacting its new TB standard, now said to be due out sometime in late spring or early summer, Bollinger says NIOSH will publish an update that incorporates any changes.

But that’s no reason to delay ordering the NIOSH manual, Bollinger notes. "We think most of what will be in the new OSHA TB standard is already covered here. When the new OSHA document comes out, we’ll see what’s changed; but I don’t think the changes will be that great."

That means administrators who implement the program outlined in the NIOSH manual won’t be faced with making lots of changes once OSHA publishes its new rules, she adds.

In the spirit of user-friendliness, the NIOSH manual’s section on respirators includes pictures of the various kinds of respirators available; lists the pros and cons of each kind; and offers help in choosing which kind is the best for a given situation.

There’s also information on respirator fit-checking (the proper term now is "user-seal checks," notes Bollinger) and respirator fit- testing.

The new manual is free, and it can be ordered by calling (800) 356-4674 and requesting publication No. 99-143. A copy of the manual also can be downloaded from the NIOSH Web site at www. cdc.gov/niosh.