OSHA, NIOSH Release New Toolkit to Better Protect Hospital Workers From Transmissible Diseases

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today released the Hospital Respiratory Protection Toolkit, a resource for healthcare employers to use to protect hospital staff from respiratory hazards.

Respirators are used to protect against exposures to airborne transmissible infectious diseases as well as chemicals and certain drugs that may be used in healthcare settings. OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard requires that healthcare employers establish and maintain a respiratory protection program in workplaces where workers may be exposed to respiratory hazards.

“Hospitals are one of the most hazardous places to work,” says assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health Dr. David Michaels. “One of the ways that we can protect workers in a healthcare 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.”

“Appropriate respiratory protection is a vital line of defense against airborne hazards hospital workers might face on the job,” says NIOSH director John Howard, MD. “This toolkit is an important resource to help healthcare employers ensure their workers are out of harm’s way when it comes to respiratory hazards.”
The toolkit covers respirator use, existing public health guidance on respirator use during exposure to infectious diseases, hazard assessment, the development of a hospital respiratory protection program, and additional resources and references on hospital respiratory protection programs.

To supplement the toolkit, the Joint Commission, an accrediting body for more than 20,500 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States, developed an educational monograph, Implementing Hospital Respiratory Protection Programs: Strategies from the Field, to assist hospitals in implementing respiratory protection programs. The monograph, produced in collaboration with NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, identifies common implementation challenges, provides specific examples of innovative strategies from healthcare organizations and examines the role of leadership, quality improvement, fit testing and training challenges and program evaluation.

“Respiratory protection programs enhance safety for both workers and patients, but there are many common challenges associated with their implementation,” says Ana McKee, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer for the Joint Commission. “We hope that by showcasing the innovative and effective strategies used by healthcare organizations across the country to overcome some of these challenges, hospitals can learn from one another as they implement and improve their own respiratory protection programs.”