Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a) (1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

This section provides guidance for workers and employers involved in border protection and transportation security operations. This guidance supplements the general interim guidance for workers and employers of workers at increased risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Employers should remain alert of changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability, and implement infection prevention measures accordingly. As states or regions satisfy the gating criteria to progress through the phases of the guidelines for Opening up America Again, employers will likely be able to adapt this guidance to better suit evolving risk levels and necessary control measures in their workplaces.

Employers should assess the hazards to which their workers may be exposed; evaluate the risk of exposure; and select, implement, and ensure workers use controls to prevent exposure. The table below provides examples of emergency response work tasks associated with the exposure risk levels in OSHA's occupational exposure risk pyramid, which may serve as a guide to employers in this sector.

Examples of border protection and transportation security work tasks associated with exposure risk levels

Lower (caution)
Medium
High
Very High
  • Performing administrative duties in non-public areas of work sites.
  • Routine border or other transportation security activities not involving the traveling public, such as inspecting cargo.

Note: For activities in the lower (caution) risk category, OSHA's Interim Guidance for Workers and Employers of Workers at Lower Risk of Exposure may be most appropriate.

  • Routine border security activities, such as passport review, of travelers arriving from abroad.
  • Routine transportation security screening activities at passenger check points.

  • Entering rooms where travelers with suspected COVID-19 have been isolated, such as during augmented (i.e., secondary, tertiary) screening steps.
  • Physical contact with travelers with suspected COVID-19, such as during searches, detainments, or arrests.

  • Category not applicable for most anticipated work tasks.

Note: Most border protection and transportation security work tasks are associated with lower or medium exposure risks; see the other columns of this chart. For guidance on border protection and transportation security workers performing emergency operations, such as providing first aid or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, see the Emergency Response Workers and Employers section of this page.

Generally, border protection officers and other workers at most ports of entry do not need special precautions beyond those already used to protect workers from the hazards they encounter during their routine job tasks.

However, various combinations of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE may be appropriate for border protection and transportation security workers, depending on the results of their employers’ hazard and risk assessments.

Engineering controls

Use physical barriers to separate border protection and transportation security officers and other workers from incoming travelers, at least at the point of initial screening and, in particular, when such travelers are arriving from areas where COVID-19 is spreading. This could include installing sections of clear plastic shielding configured with a pass-through opening at the bottom of the shielding as a barrier protection between workers and travelers.

Use designated areas, such as dedicated, private rooms with closeable doors, to isolate travelers suspected of having COVID-19, including those with obvious or self-reported signs and/or symptoms of infection. Use AIIRs if available in the facility.

If workers are screening passengers for fever, use contactless (i.e., thermal sensor) thermometers to prevent workers from needing to touch sick travelers and to maximize the distance that can be kept between workers and such travelers.

Use rope-and-stanchion systems to keep travelers from queueing or congregating near work areas. For example, provide a waiting area for travelers who must enter screening or other checkpoints that is separated by at least 6 feet from a workstation. Signage that instructs individuals waiting in line to remain 6 feet back from work areas may bolster the effectiveness of this engineering control.

Administrative Controls

Consider limiting the number of travelers allowed to pass through screening or other checkpoints at any one time, to prevent the congregation or formation of crowds. For example, see recommendations in the Engineering Controls section, above, that discuss rope-and-stanchion systems.

Establish protocols and provide supplies to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces. For example, wipe down bins used for x-ray screening of passengers' belongings. Frequently clean push bars and handles on any doors that do not open automatically.

Safe Work Practices

Workers should avoid touching their faces, including their eyes, noses, and mouths, particularly until after they have thoroughly washed their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon completing work and/or removing PPE. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Personal Protective Equipment

Most border protection and transportation security officers and other workers are unlikely to need PPE beyond what they use to protect themselves during routine job tasks. However, employers should consider whether their hazard and risk assessments warrant the use of items such as gloves or eye and face protection.

Border protection officers entering rooms where travelers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been isolated, such as during augmented (i.e., secondary, tertiary) screening steps, may need to be protected with higher-level PPE, including gowns and NIOSH-certified disposable N95 or better respirators. In those cases, respirators must be used as part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and includes medical exams, fit testing, and training.

Further information

The CDC also provides information for law enforcement personnel in its What Law Enforcement Personnel Need to Know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 guidance, which may be applicable to border protection and transportation security workers.

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