While OSHA was developing the Respiratory Protection Standard for Tuberculosis, the healthcare industry's approach to protecting workers was changing. These improvements in identification of the potential hazard, isolation, ventilation controls and worker hygiene practices have lead to a reduction in Mycobacterium Tuberculosis cases. The proposed Tuberculosis Standard. 29 CFR 1910.139, was withdrawn in the December 31, 2003, Federal register 68: 75767-75775, because it is believed that the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134 can adequately protect healthcare workers required to wear respiratory protection due to potential exposure to Tuberculosis or similar biological hazards.1

In the following presentation, we will briefly address the exposure risks associated with bio-hazards, such as Tuberculosis, SARs, and Avian Flu, with an emphasis on the need to protect workers. Since respiratory protection is a means of protection, though not the primary means, the remainder of the program will address the selection and use of respiratory protection devices. Respirator selection will be discussed for biological hazards. In addition, a review of key components of a written Respiratory Protection Program 29 CFR 1910.134 will conclude the program. A draft "Written Respiratory Protection Program" from NIOSH is also attached to support ASSE members who are developing a Respiratory Protection Program. The draft program can be modified for use in most industries.

We are not experts on biological hazards and usually refer to organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and many other government and private research and interest organizations that are experts in this field. We have, however, developed and/or implemented respiratory protection programs in a number of industry sectors with a focus on implementation of a viable respiratory protection program.

What is TB, SARs, Avian Flu, and Pandemic?

In a History Channel Special, "The Doomsday Flu," I became more aware of the potential for deaths due to a Pandemic Flu. A Pandemic flu causes a global outbreak of serious illness that spreads easily from person to person due to the lack of human antibodies.

The History Channel Program described the Spanish Flu of 1918, during World War I, that resulted in the deaths of 22 million people worldwide, including more than half a million Americans. One of the interesting aspects of this event was the rapid spread of the disease and measures taken to identify the virus as well as prevent its spread. It also described curfews established in many towns and cities, restricting the movement of people. At one point, citizens were required to wear surgical masks if they ventured outside their homes.

There were two other Pandemics that took millions of lives in 1957 and 1968, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of Americans. In reviewing these pandemics, it was clear that there is a need for early detection/recognition and intervention.

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