Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious and potentially life-threatening infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The TB bacteria are spread from person to person through the air. People with TB disease of the lungs or larynx release the bacteria into the surrounding area when they cough, sneeze, talk, or otherwise expel air, dispersing droplets that contain M. tuberculosis. These droplets can dry into tiny particles called droplet nuclei that remain suspended in air for long periods of time.
What are the hazards associated with TB?
Although the majority of healthy individuals who are exposed to and subsequently infected by TB may never develop active disease, left untreated TB infection can progress to active disease which can, in turn, result in death. Further complicating treatment of active TB is the fact that initial infection by multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB limits the types and number of drugs that can be used to treat the patient once active disease begins.
What can I do to protect myself?
Never enter the room or dwelling of an individual known to have active disease unless you know that they are undergoing treatment and have been cleared by a physician as no longer infectious. Healthcare workers and others who must enter an isolation room where an individual is undergoing treatment must wear appropriate respiratory protection in accordance with an effective respiratory protection program.
What resources are available to assist employers?
Training and Outreach Services
The tuberculosis, respiratory protection and personal protective equipment presentations can be used to assist employers to train their employees. They should be customized to fit the conditions of the work environment.
In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
Safety and Health Programs
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to tuberculosis in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
General Duty Clause
NCGS 95-129(1) - In certain circumstances, TB hazards may be cited using the “General Duty Clause.”
29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements
29 CFR 1910.134 - respiratory protection
29 CFR 1910.145 - specifications for accident prevention signs and tags
29 CFR 1910.1020 - access to employee exposure and medical records
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Compliance Directive: CPL 02-02-078 establishes enforcement policy and provides explanation of the applicable standards to ensure uniform enforcement.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to tuberculosis.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-707-7876.