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1954. OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE TO TUBERCULOSIS

Priority: Economically Significant. Major under 5 USC 801.

Unfunded Mandates: This action may affect the private sector under PL 104-4.

Legal Authority: 29 USC 655(b)

CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910.1035

Legal Deadline: None

Abstract: On August 25, 1993, the Labor Coalition to Fight TB in the Workplace petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop an occupational health standard to protect workers against the transmission of tuberculosis (TB). The Coalition stated that although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had developed guidelines for controlling the spread of TB, many of the TB outbreak investigations conducted by CDC showed that many employers were not fully implementing the CDC guidelines. After reviewing the available information, OSHA preliminarily concluded that a significant risk of occupational transmission of TB exists for some workers in some work settings and began rulemaking on a proposed standard.

To assist in the development of the proposed standard, OSHA consulted with parties outside the Agency. The preliminary risk assessment was peer-reviewed by four experts with specific knowledge in the areas of TB disease and risk assessment. In addition, OSHA conducted stakeholder meetings with representatives of various groups that might be affected by the proposed standard. The draft proposed standard was also reviewed and commented on by affected small business entities under the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel requirements of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) and by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866.

On October 17, 1997 OSHA published its proposed standard for occupational exposure to TB (62 FR 54160). The proposed standard would cover workers in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and certain other work settings where workers are at significant risk of becoming infected with TB while caring for their patients or clients or performing certain procedures. The proposed standard would require employers to protect TB-exposed workers using infection control measures that have been shown to be highly effective in reducing or eliminating work-related TB infections. Such measures include procedures for early identification of individuals with infectious TB, isolation of individuals with infectious TB using appropriate ventilation, use of respiratory protection in certain situations, and skin testing and training of employees.

After the close of the written comment period for the proposed standard on February 17, 1998, informal public hearings were held in Washington, DC (April 7-17), Los Angeles, CA (May 5-7), New York City, NY (May 19- 21), and Chicago, IL (June 2-4). At the end of the public hearings a post-hearing comment period was established. The post-hearing comment period closed on October 5, 1998. On June 17, 1999 OSHA re-opened the rulemaking record to submit the Agency's report on homeless shelters and certain other documents that became available to the Agency after the close of the post-hearing comment period. During this limited re- opening of the rulemaking record, OSHA also requested interested parties to submit comments and data on the Agency's preliminary risk assessment in order to obtain the best, most recent data for providing the most accurate estimates of the occupational risk of tuberculosis.

Statement of Need: TB is a contagious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Infection is acquired by the inhalation of airborne particles carrying the bacterium. These airborne particles, called droplet nuclei, can be generated when persons with pulmonary TB in the infectious stage of the disease cough, sneeze, or speak. In some individuals who inhale the droplet nuclei, TB bacteria establish an infection. In most cases, the bacteria are contained by the individual's immune system. However, in some cases, the bacteria are not contained by the immune system and continue to grow and invade the tissue, leading to the progressive destruction of the organ involved. In most cases, this organ is the lung, although other organs may also become infected.

From 1953, when active cases began to be reported in the United States, until 1984, the number of annual reported cases declined 74 percent, from 84,304 cases to 22,255 cases. However, this steady decline did not continue. Instead, from 1985 to 1992, the number of reported cases increased 20.1 percent. TB control efforts were re-initiated in some areas of the country and from 1993 to 1998, the number of cases in the United States again declined. A large portion of the decrease occurred in high incidence areas, such as New York City, where intervention efforts were focused. However, despite the recent decrease in active cases, there were still 18,371 reported TB cases in 1998. Outbreaks of TB continue to occur and multidrug-resistant forms of TB disease continue to spread to new states. In addition, more than 10 to 15 million persons in the United States have latent TB infection and are at risk of developing TB disease sometime in the future. Moreover, the factors that led to the resurgence from 1985 to 1992 (e.g., increases in homelessness, HIV infection, immigration from countries with high rates of infection) still exist.

Providing health care for individuals with TB increases the risk of occupational exposure among healthcare workers. Many of the outbreaks of TB have occurred in health care facilities, resulting in the transmission of TB to both patients and health care workers. CDC found that the factors contributing to these outbreaks included delayed diagnosis of TB, delayed initiation of effective therapy, delayed initiation and inadequate duration of TB isolation, inadequate ventilation of isolation rooms, lapses in TB isolation practices, and lack of adequate respiratory protection. CDC analyzed data from several of the outbreaks and found that the transmission of TB decreased significantly when recommended TB control measures were implemented. Workers outside health care also provide services to patient or client populations that have an increased rate of TB disease. For example, occupational transmission of TB has been documented in correctional facilities, and the standard would cover such workers.

Summary of Legal Basis: The legal basis for the proposed TB standard is a preliminary finding by the Secretary of Labor that workers in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and certain other work settings are at a significant risk of incurring TB infection while caring for their patients and clients or performing certain procedures.

Alternatives: Prior to a decision to publish a proposal, OSHA considered a number of options, including whether or not to develop an emergency temporary standard, publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, or to enforce existing regulations.

Anticipated Cost and Benefits: Costs will be incurred by employers for engineering controls, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, training, exposure control, recordkeeping, and work practice controls. Benefits will include the prevention of work-related TB transmissions and infections, and a corresponding reduced risk of exposure among the general population. OSHA estimates that more than 5 million workers are exposed to TB in the course of their work. The Agency estimates that the proposed provisions will result in annual costs of 245 million dollars. Implementation of the standard is estimated to reduce the number of work-related cases of TB by 70-90 percent in the work settings covered, thus preventing approximately 21,400 to 25,800 work- related infections per year, 1,500 to 1,700 active cases of TB resulting from these infections, and approximately 115 to 136 deaths resulting from these active cases.

Risks: From 1985 to 1992, the number of reported cases of TB in the United States increased, reversing a previous 30-year downward trend. While there has been a recent decrease in the reported number of cases of TB in the general population, a large part of this decrease can be attributed to focused intervention efforts in areas of high incidence of TB. Fourteen states showed an increase or no change in the number of reported cases in 1998, and the factors that contributed to the resurgence continue to exist, along with exposure of certain workers to patient or client populations with an increased rate of TB. In addition, TB outbreaks continue to occur and multidrug-resistant strains of TB continue to spread to new states. Therefore, employees in work settings such as health care or correctional facilities, who have contact with infectious individuals, are at high risk of occupational transmission of TB. OSHA estimates that the average lifetime occupational risk of TB infection ranges from 30-386 infections per 1000 workers exposed to TB on the job and that the average lifetime occupational risk of TB disease ranges from 3-39 cases of active TB disease per 1000 workers exposed to TB. Active disease can cause signs and symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, fever, night sweats, loss of appetite, persistent cough, and shortness of breath, and may result in serious respiratory illness or death.

Timetable:

ActionDateFR Cite

SBREFA Panel 09/10/96 
NPRM10/17/97 62 FR 54160
NPRM Comment Period End 02/17/9862 FR 65388
Post Hearing Comment End 10/05/98 
Record Reopening 06/17/99 64 FR 32447
Reopening Comment Period End 08/02/99 
2nd Reopening Comment Period End 06/28/9964 FR 34625
Final Rule 07/00/00 

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes

Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions, Organizations

Government Levels Affected: Federal, State, Local, Tribal

Additional Information: During this rulemaking, OSHA met with small business stakeholders to discuss their concerns, and conducted an initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis to identify any significant impacts on a substantial number of small entities. In addition, OSHA conducted a special study of homeless shelters and set aside certain hearing dates for persons who wished to testify on homeless shelter issues.

Agency Contact: Marthe B. Kent, Acting Director, Directorate of Health Standards Programs, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N3718, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 693-1950
Fax: 202 693-1678

RIN: 1218-AB46


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