213232 Inconsistency in Worker Protection Guidance by State and Local Health Departments During the H1N1 Influenza Outbreak

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mark D. Catlin, BS BA , Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Washington, MD
Steve Schrag, BA , 1199SEIU Employment, Training & Job Security Program, New York, NY
Soon after the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in the United States in late April 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued consistent guidance for protecting healthcare workers from infection from H1N1 influenza. The CDC guidance included airborne precautions and the use of respiratory protection (not surgical masks) not normally recommended for seasonal flu. State and local health departments inconsistently adopted this CDC guidance which caused much confusion among healthcare employers and employees. To better understand this inconsistency, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) conducted an evaluation of twenty states and local health department's guidance for protecting healthcare workers. This poster reports on the results of that evaluation. Half of the selected health departments were found have guidance inconsistent with the CDC regarding the use of respiratory protection by healthcare workers usually recommending the use of surgical masks instead. The guidance in these ten states would result in lower occupational health protection for healthcare workers if followed by employers, which was often the situation. Some health departments never adopted the CDC guidance for H1N1. Others adopted the CDC guidance initially, but later A follow-up evaluation will be conducted during August and compared with these findings. The reasons for the inconsistency in worker protection guidance by state and local health departments and the impact on worker health protections will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the variation from CDC Guidance for infection control for healthcare and other employers by state and local health departments. Discuss possible reasons for this variation and public policy options to improve consistancy.

Keywords: Infectious Diseases, Occupational Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have more than 20 years of experience working in occupational health and safety, including tens years in healthcare.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.