PROPOSED standards for reducing occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens, including hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency viruses, are almost ready, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). John A. Pendergrass, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, says one provision will require employers to make hepatitis B vaccine available.
Speakers at the Third National Forum on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Hepatitis B, held in Washington, DC, pointed out that only one third of health care workers are immunized despite the vaccine's being available since 1982. Last year there were 18 000 cases of hepatitis B among health care workers and nearly 300 deaths.
The proposed standards will not be limited to health care workers. This broader scope is being proposed because it is exposure to potentially infectious materials, not specific occupation, that presents the risk, Pendergrass said. Employers will also be required to provide training and acceptable protective equipment such