NIOSH Accepting Comments Until June 1 on Health Workers' PPE Plan

June 1 is the new deadline for stakeholders to comment on NIOSH's Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers Action Plan, a 66-page document intended to help guide the effort to get the nation's 14 million health care workers ready for an influenza pandemic. A notice sent Friday and signed by Les Boord, director of the agency's National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, announced the extra time.

The plan (www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/129/pdfs/lttr022208.pdf) was devised after an Institute of Medicine panel determined in 2006 that there is an urgent need to address the lack of preparedness for PPE to be used during a pandemic. The SARS episode in 2003 had already demonstrated the importance of protecting health care workers during mass disease outbreaks, and this was part of the reason for the IOM panel's three overall recommendations: 1) understand influenza transmission, 2) commit to workers' safety and appropriate use of PPE, and 3) innovate and strengthen PPE design, testing, and certification.

Training and education will be part of the process of preparing adequately. As the action plan points out, terminology and standard protective gear are at odds in the U.S. medical field and the occupational safety field. To medical personnel, respirators are mechanical breathing devices that aid a patient after endotracheal intubation, but in safety respirators are worn device that protect against specific hazardous substances. Medical masks are loose-fitting and provide only limited protection. Health care workers will have to be educated about the use and role of respirators, the report says.

To comment about it, send an e-mail to nioshdocket@cdc.gov that is addressed to "129 - NIOSH/NPPTL Draft Health Care Workers" and list the author(s), return address, and a phone number. Printed comments may be sent to the NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C34, 129 - NIOSH/NPPTL Draft Health Care Workers, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226. All comments submitted will be available for examination at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docket/.

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