Guidelines for Protecting the Safety and Health of Health Care Workers

September 1988
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 88-119
cover of 88-119

The purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Public Law 91596) is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for every working man and woman in the Nation and to preserve our human resources by providing medical and other criteria that will ensure, insofar as practicable, that no workers will suffer diminished health, functional capacity, or life expectancy as a result of their work experience. The Act authorizes the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop and establish recommended occupational safety and health standards, and to conduct the necessary research and experimental programs to develop criteria for new and improved occupational safety and health standards. Although this document does not recommend a new standard, it does present guidelines for reducing the incidence of injury and disease among health care workers. Every effort was made to address all major health and safety hazards that might be encountered in hospitals or other health care centers. The document is not intended to affect patients directly, but implementing the guidelines will generally benefit patient care.

The present document is a major revision of an earlier draft and incorporates the most recent NIOSH recommended standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, and Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Also included is specific information from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals), the National Fire Protection Association, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies. State and local regulations are not addressed, however, and should be consulted where applicable.