Tuberculosis In The Workplace: What The Management Should Know.

What happens when you encountered a TB patient in your office? 😷

Here are the things that the management should know:

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection in the lungs caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but it can affect other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.

It can be latent infection wherein the employee is infected but the immune system is strong enough to control it, so, the employee is not showing symptoms and the disease is not developed.

On the other hand, active infection develops within weeks of initial infection.

How is it transmitted?

An active TB can be transmitted directly from actively infected persons at work or from breathing in air that contains the bacteria. When the infectious employee coughs, sneezes or spits, they would drive TB bacteria into the air.

Employees with latent TB infection cannot spread germs to other employees. Hence, they can return to work.

How to recognize an employee with TB?

Every patient who visits the office clinic with a cough lasting two weeks or more should be regarded as a “tuberculosis suspect”.

The patient may be ordered to undergo sputum testing and chest x-ray by the corporate doctor.

So, what should I do if an employee reports to be positive in TB testing?

· Be reminded that the employee with TB should not be discriminated and must be handled with strict confidentiality.

· Office clinic should refer the infected employee to any private or public Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) facility.

· It is important that the infected employee is advised to follow the full course of treatment to ensure compliance.

When can an employee with TB return to work?

An employee with active TB is not fit to work during the initial stages of treatment until clinically better and they are no longer infectious (approximately two weeks of treatment).  The employee must submit a medical certificate from physician/ pulmonologist with return-to-work recommendation.

However, it is important to tell the employee to continue the treatment even if s/he has already returned to work.

When can an employee become unfit to return to work?

· If after two weeks and the infected employee is confirmed or strongly suspected with multi-drug resistance, s/he is advised not to return to work yet until s/he has a documented culture conversion of her/his sputum or are confirmed not to have resistant TB. There should be an adequate sick leave available for her/him as s/he may require hospitalization for a few months.

·  Patients who were permanently incapacitated by TB may not be able to return to work and s/he should be dealt with according to the company’s policy on medical termination and country’s labor code.

How about if an employee disclosed her/his history of TB during the pre-employment process?

The employee must submit a recent pulmonary clearance in order to be fit to work (Class B)

How is TB prevented then?

· Find – early identification and diagnosis of TB

· Treat – regular and complete treatment of the TB course. 💊

· Prevent – infection control and disease prevention by creating TB-Free workplace health programs (annual physical exam, regular risk and hazard assessment, educational materials, counseling etc)

What is the role of the OSH Committee?

The company’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Committee must continually review and improve its policies and programs that promote TB control and prevention.

The TB-Free Workplace policy and programs must always be made known to the employees, be adequately funded and be monitored by the company’s human resource department.


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