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Copyright 2003, American Safety & Emergency Response
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OSHA delays enforcement of respiratory rules for exposure to tuberculosis

OSHA announced Jan. 14 that it is giving employers six months -- until July 1, 2004 -- to adjust to several new respiratory protection requirements for workers who are potentially exposed to tuberculosis.

The announcement follows the agency's withdrawal last month of its 1997 proposal on tuberculosis and revocation of a separate respiratory protection standard for workers exposed to TB.

"Requirements such as annual fit testing and medical evaluations for covered employees may be new for some employers," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We want to make sure they are aware of these new requirements and give them every opportunity to be able to successfully come into compliance."

With the withdrawal of the TB rule, OSHA announced it would begin applying the general industry respiratory protection standard for protection against the disease. This rule includes several requirements, which were not as detailed in the revoked rule, such as updating the facility's respirator program, medical evaluation requirements, annual fit testing of respirators and some training and recordkeeping provisions. During this six-month period, OSHA will not cite these new requirements for establishments with workers exposed only to tuberculosis. All elements of the revoked rule continue to be enforced under the corresponding elements of the current respiratory protection standard.

The announcement does not affect establishments already covered under the respiratory protection rule where there is exposure to hazardous substances other than TB, OSHA notes. All provisions of the rule continue to be applied to those employers.

For more information, visit
www.osha.gov.