OSHA Releases Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit

Most people associate the name OSHA with safety standards for the protection of workers in construction and manufacturing settings. OSHA, however, is not so limited, as demonstrated by its recently released Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit, which is designed to help hospitals and other health care employers protect their staff from respiratory hazards.

The toolkit was a joint effort of OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is an outgrowth of a California-specific guide issued in May 2012. The toolkit explains that it “creates no new legal obligations” but “was developed to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective respiratory protection programs, with an emphasis on preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs) to healthcare personnel.”

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, explains that “[h]ospitals are one of the most hazardous places to work . . . One of the ways that we can protect workers in a health care setting is by providing employers with the resources needed to ensure a safe workplace. This toolkit will help protect those workers who dedicate their lives to caring for others.”

The toolkit provides a summary of respiratory hazards in the hospital setting and a reader-friendly reference guide to the key requirements of the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard. Notably, the Respiratory Protection Standard requires that health care employers establish and maintain a respiratory protection program in workplaces where workers may be exposed to respiratory hazards. The toolkit includes references to additional resources to assist health care employers in designing or updating their respiratory protection programs.

As a supplement to the toolkit, the Joint Commission—the accrediting body for more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the United States—has issued a document entitled “Implementing Hospital Respiratory Protection Programs: Strategies from the Field,” which provides further assistance for hospitals in implementing respiratory protection programs. In addition, further information may be found on OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals Web page.

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