Where Is OSHA For Border Patrol Agents?

I have stated several times that I think the whole swine flu issue is being blown out of proportion but that does not mean there is no threat of getting sick from the virus especially if one visits Mexico or has contact with someone who did. There is still a need to protect ourselves and the most efficient way of doing this is to wash our hands often.

Another method, for those who have constant contact, is to wear masks. The masks, if properly worn, prevent airborne droplets from being inspired and causing infection.

However, Janet Napolitano and the DHS have decided that border patrol agents who are in contact with people crossing the Mexican/American border every day are not allowed to wear masks and if they do they will face disciplinary action. An ABC News 10 report indicates that border patrol agents have requested to wear a mask while performing her duties and this request was denied. Over 80 agents asked to wear the masks but they were told they may not. ABC News 10 reports they have copies of the denied requests and those copies indicate that the agents may not wear the masks because of how it looks and because of the potential for public panic.

The DHS is putting politics ahead of the safety of the workers.

The DHS denies that it ever told agents that they may not wear the masks which directly contradicts the report from ABC News 10 and the memos presented in the report. DHS states that the science does not indicate that wearing the masks is appropriate.

Employers are required to provide respiratory protective equipment when required by the work environment (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134):

A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide the respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program, which shall include the requirements outlined in paragraph (c) of this section. The program shall cover each employee required by this section to use a respirator.

The employer must provide it when the equipment is necessary to protect the health of the employee. DHS is getting around this by stating that the science does not support the wear of a mask (which is a respirator under the standard).

Has the DHS done any air monitoring to determine the potential for contamination? The outbreak started in Mexico and that country has been the hardest hit. People in Mexico are wearing masks to prevent spread of the disease and a lot of them cross the border each day. In the absence of monitoring data the atmosphere becomes and unknown and it makes sense to protect workers from the potential of exposure to a flu that will take them from their duties.

Does it make sense to make a politically correct decision and risk a large number of workers becoming ill and therefore unable to do their jobs?

The masks are inexpensive and the Mexicans are already wearing them so it is not like they don’t know what is going on. The idea that DHS is creating an atmosphere where its workers are potentially exposed to a virus that leads to illness is unconscionable. The CDC discusses the use of masks in settings where contact with potentially infected persons cannot be avoided (such as on the border with the country where it originated):

When crowded settings or close contact with others cannot be avoided, the use of facemasks1 or respirators2 in areas where transmission of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus has been confirmed should be considered as follows:

1. Whenever possible, rather than relying on the use of facemasks or respirators, close contact with people who might be ill and being in crowded settings should be avoided.
2. Facemasks should be considered for use by individuals who enter crowded settings, both to protect their nose and mouth from other people’s coughs and to reduce the wearers’ likelihood of coughing on others; the time spent in crowded settings should be as short as possible.
3. Respirators should be considered for use by individuals for whom close contact with an infectious person is unavoidable. This can include selected individuals who must care for a sick person (e.g., family member with a respiratory infection) at home.

The masks might help even if the science does not indicate they should be used. More importantly, the employees want to wear them. If wearing them will give them peace of mind and allow them to do their jobs more efficiently, why not let them?

There is no reason and no excuse for denying employees a method to protect themselves from infection.

Big Dog

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One Response to “Where Is OSHA For Border Patrol Agents?”

  1. Blake says:

    This is just another example of Napolitano’s incompetence- I agree that this flu seems mild, but it has been jumping fast, and with all the illegals coming over the border, many for the medical care they can get free here, it would make sense to err on the side of caution, but Janet From Another Planet seems to feel that this would have a negative impression- on who, Janet? The illegals who should not be crossing our borders anyway? Why should we care what they think? If it was up to me I’d hustle their butts back across the water with a few well- placed warning shots- they would never see the masks.
    This is the problem with open borders- we have a fairly good (for now) health care system- Mexico does not. As a consequence, we have been flooded by illegals seeking medical care for everything from delivering babies to curing drug- resistant tuberculosis and leprosy.
    We do not know what might be brought in, because WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OUR BORDERS. Is that plain enough for all you “Open Border” freaks?
    There are reasons for the way things are done, and that is to protect our society from massive contagion. If you can’t understand that, you need to go live in Mexico with the rest of those who cannot figure this out.
    This flu should be a wake up call for closing the borders, but you’ll see- the ignorant among us are the ones in power right now (see: Janet Napolitano), and they will refuse to see that it is in America’s interests to do so, for the next time the disease might not be as benign.