OSHA Offers More Advice on Bird Flu

November 15, 2006

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is recommending that workers practice good hygiene, including wearing gloves and washing hands, and, in some cases, donning respiratory protection, to avoid catching the bird flu.

OSHA this week offered guidance to companies and workers about how to deal with the hazards of the deadly bird flu. Companies are encouraged to follow the guidance, but they aren’t required to do so.

Poultry workers, for instance, are advised to wear lightweight, disposable gloves or heavy-duty rubber work gloves that can be disinfected. The guidance says they should wear disposable outer garments, safety goggles and respiratory protection.

Food handlers should avoid touching their mouth, nose or eyes while handling raw poultry products. Certain laboratory employees should have access to a changing room and a shower before they leave work, the safety guidance says.

Thorough and frequent hand washing for all types of workers is recommended.

“We encourage employers and employees who are most likely to be exposed to avian flu to take the appropriate precautions,” said OSHA Administrator Ed Foulke. “This guidance offers them practical tips, such as hand washing and the use of proper protective equipment for preventing illness.”

The virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed 153 worldwide since it started ravaging poultry stocks in Asia three years ago, according to figures compiled by the World Health Organization.

Most of the human deaths from bird flu have been linked to close contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form easily spread from person to person and spark a worldwide pandemic.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

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