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Ebola takes center stage in workplace accident prevention

Anyone in the country who watches the news is aware of the fact that a deadly virus -- Ebola -- is threatening the lives of Americans. Workers in certain seem to share a greater risk of contracting the virus. They include healthcare workers, laboratory workers and emergency responders. Therefore, the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA announced certain safety recommendations for anyone in a high-risk profession to follow in an effort to reduce the possibility of a workplace accident involving exposure to Ebola.

Employers are urged to provide protective clothing, including gloves, suits and respirators that prevent bodily fluids from coming into contact with a worker's skin and clothes. If infectious aerosols are believed to be present, workers are to wear a respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In addition, employees must undergo training -- including drills -- on safely and properly putting on and taking off all protective gear.

A separate area should be designated for these activities, and each employee should be paired with another to assist one another. In areas where a substantial amount of bodily fluids -- such as blood, feces and/or  vomit -- are present, employees should wear more than one pair of gloves and extra coverings for their legs and feet. If an employee will be performing a procedure that could produce airborne particles, a NIOSH-approved respirator is to be used. If an individual exposed to Ebola may be infected, it should be reported to California officials immediately.

As would be the case in any workplace accident, if someone does contract Ebola while on-the-job, he or she is likely entitled to workers' compensation benefits to cover the medical costs that will be incurred in an attempt to restore him or her to full health. During recovery, benefits may also provide compensation for lost income. If a worker who contracts Ebola should die as a result, his or her family may also be eligible for death benefits.

Source: ehstoday.com, "Cal/OSHA Issues Interim Guidelines to Protect Health Care Workers from Ebola", Josh Cable, Oct. 20, 2014

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