WASHINGTON (AP) _ As a New York prison guard, Leo Dickerman knew he would face risks. But he did not expect to find himself _ or his young son and daughter _ stricken with tuberculosis because of his job.

Dickerman contracted the highly contagious disease while guarding a constantly coughing prisoner in the infirmary. He unwittingly passed it on to his 2-year-old son Zachary and 5-year-old daughter Amy.

``I was put in the hospital in an isolation room,'' Dickerman said, choking back tears. ``I wasn't allowed visitors into my room, ... which means that I wasn't able to hold my children and wife.''

The Dickermans eventually recovered after rigorous treatment. In an attempt to end such horror stories, the Labor Department on Thursday proposed regulations to diminish TB exposure for employees who work in places especially vulnerable to the disease, such as hospitals, nursing homes and drug treatment centers.

``Our statutory responsibility is to protect workers, and what we find is that workers are at significant risk of material health impairment,'' said Greg Watchman, acting assistant secretary of labor and head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The regulations would require high-risk workplaces to provide exposure control plans for all employees and respirators for those most at risk of contracting the disease. They also would have to create isolation areas for TB patients and conduct periodic medical examinations.

OSHA says the regulations would affect 5 million workers in 100,000 work sites, cost $245 million a year to implement and prevent 21,000 to 25,000 infections a year.

Tuberculosis routinely ranks among the most common infectious diseases, with an estimated 13 million adult Americans now infected. It spreads easily through coughing, sneezing or other simple contact, and tends to attack the lungs.

OSHA's rules would apply to workplaces where TB exposure is likely, such as hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, hospices, drug abuse treatment facilities, homeless shelters and certain laboratories. Teachers, lawyers and social workers also are included if their work puts them in contact with people who have or could have TB. The rules would not apply to restaurants.

OSHA is making exceptions for medical facilities that do not accept TB patients, have not had a confirmed case in 12 months or are based in counties with low TB rates.

A series of public hearings on the proposed standards will be held throughout the United States before OSHA puts them into effect.

Both the American Lung Association and the American Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes and assisted living programs, praised the proposal. But the lung association suggested a greater emphasis on preventive medicines.

``The dangerous case of TB is the undiagnosed case,'' said Dr. Lee B. Reichman, former lung association president. ``We don't catch TB from someone we know has TB.''

Dickerman has no doubt the recommendations should become official. ``Some of the employers out there, they know what they're doing,'' Dickerman said. ``Some, they don't know. ... Some, they just don't want to do it.''