OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced today it is extending until Feb. 17, 1998, the period for comments on the proposed standard to protect workers exposed to tuberculosis and is rescheduling the public hearing in Washington, D.C. The agency also announced it will hold hearings in three additional cities.
OSHA proposed the tuberculosis standard on Oct. 17, 1997, to help protect an estimated 5.3 million workers in more than 100,000 hospitals, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities for the elderly, detention facilities and other work settings with a high risk of TB infection. Though the rate of active TB in the general population has declined overall during the past 40 years, the risk for workers who care for clients and patients infected with the disease continues to be high, and in some areas is growing. Additionally, new strains of TB have emerged that are resistant to current treatment.
OSHA estimates that implementation of the safeguards envisioned in the proposal would save more than 130 lives annually, while preventing between 21,000 and 25,000 infections during the same period. Further, it's estimated that the proposal would save from $89 million to $116 million in medical costs for treatment of tuberculosis and lost production caused by employee absence from work and disabilities associated with active cases of the disease.
Since the proposal's publication, six organizations that will be affected by the proposed standard requested the agency to extend the comment period from the originally announced date of Dec. 16, 1997.
"We understand that this is a very complex issue, with far-reaching implications," said OSHA's Assistant Secretary Charles N. Jeffress. "We've said all along that we seek broad public participation in this process. Extending the comment period will provide organizations and individuals the time they need to prepare their comments and testimony."
The deadline for filing written comments and notices of intent to appear at the hearings is now Feb. 17, 1998. The deadline for submission of testimony for those who plan to testify for more than 10 minutes at a hearing or who are submitting documentary evidence is Feb. 27, 1998. Further, the public hearing originally scheduled to begin on Feb. 3, 1998, in Washington, D.C., will now start April 7, 1998. As originally announced, that hearing will be in the auditorium of the Department of Labor (Frances Perkins Building), 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., beginning at 10 a.m.
Because a proposed TB standard would impact employers and employees across the nation, OSHA will schedule hearings in three additional cities to accommodate interested parties who are unable to attend those planned for Washington. Hearings will be held in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. Dates and locations of those hearings will be published at a later date.
Comments on the proposed standard, as well as notices of intent to appear at hearings, testimony and documentary evidence must be submitted in quadruplicate to the Docket Officer, Docket No. H-371, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments of 10 pages or less may be transmitted via fax to (202) 219-5046.
Notice of the public hearings and extension of the comment period is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 12 Federal Register.
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