Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|
| Standard Number:||1910.1030|
July 9, 1993
Your memo of March 18, 1993 asked us to clarify whether lifeguards are covered under the Bloodborne Pathogens standard.
Generally, lifeguards are considered to be emergency responders and, therefore, would be considered to have occupational exposure. Emergency response is generally the main responsibility of lifeguards, therefore, such duties could not be considered collateral.
Although it is the employer's responsibility to determine which, if any, of the employees have occupational exposure, employers of lifeguards should examine all facets of the lifeguard's emergency response duties, not just "retrieval from deep water."
For example, divers sometimes miscalculate and hit their head or another part of their body on the diving board on the way down, causing injury where blood is present. It may be reasonably anticipated that a pool patron will dive or fall into shallow water and sustain injuries where blood is present. Victims of near-drownings may hit their head on the bottom or side of the pool, causing them to bite their tongues, cheeks, or lips; so even the administration of cardio-pulmonary rescusitation (CPR) when other injuries are not apparent may result in occupational exposure. It may also be reasonably anticipated that pool patrons will slip on wet surfaces or cut themselves on soda can pop tops, bottle caps, or other debris left around the pool. In most of these cases, if not all of them, it would generally be the lifeguard's duty to render assistance.
As you pointed out, some employers defend their argument that lifeguards do not have occupational exposure by saying that lifeguards are present only "to satisfy liability concerns."
However, in our view, this fact reflects the reasonable anticipation that pool activities may be dangerous, resulting in injuries where blood is present.
Ocean lifeguards, as evidenced by testimony given during the rulemaking process, have even more opportunity for exposure to blood or OPIM. Examples of ocean lifeguard exposure include rescuing swimmers stung by a man-of-war or attacked by sharks or other ocean dwellers, surfers suffering head or body trauma and cuts from surf boards, victims of boating accidents, swimmers propelled by the surf into piers or pilings covered with barnacles, and so forth.
An employer is required to offer all the protections of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, including the hepatitis B vaccine, to all employees with occupational exposure. Because the emergency response duties of occupationally exposed lifeguards are not considered to be collateral, the vaccine must be offered after training and within 10 working days of initial assignment.
We understand that lifeguards are often seasonal employees and may not be in the same employ long enough to receive the complete vaccine series. Those workers with occupational exposure should be offered the required inoculations scheduled in the series while they are employed. If the third injection, for instance, would be due after the employee's term of employment has ended, the employer would not be obligated to offer it. If the employer anticipates rehiring the lifeguard the following season, it would be in the employer's best interest to ensure the completion of the series within the time frame recommended by the CDC.
It is our understanding that life guards are covered under 29 CFR 1910.1030. Questions have arisen concerning whether life guards are considered to have exposure to blood or OPIM as a primary function of their job or if they should be treated as first aid responders.
This question arises since many life guards at swimming pools are not expected to have reasonably anticipated exposure to blood when compared to the short duration of employment for some (i.e., for many life guards, their job lasts only a few months during the summer season) as well as when the life guard does get involved in "saving" someone it typically involves retrieval from deep water which is not reasonably expected to result in exposure to blood or OPIM. It has been argued that coverage of life guards would be more appropriately handled in the same manner as first aid responders. The issue of how life guards are treated relates to whether life guards are required to be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine at initiation of employment or at the time that they are involved in a first aid incident where there is the possibility of exposure to blood or OPIM. Associations involved with life guards have raised the issue of what is perceived as unnecessary costs to provide the vaccine up-front when there is no reasonably anticipated exposure to blood or OPIM considering the short duration of employment as well as the fact that many are at pools to satisfy liability concerns.
Your written guidance on this issue is appreciated. Please contact Jim Johnston of my staff (215-596-1201) if you have any questions.
Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|