Environmental Services Workers and Employers
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 environmental services (i.e., janitorial, cleaning) workers. This guidance supplements the general interim guidance for U.S. workers and employers of workers with potential occupational exposures to SARS-CoV-2, including the detailed section on Environmental Cleaning and Decontamination. Note that workers performing environmental services or janitorial tasks in healthcare settings, particularly where they may be exposed to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, may need protections described in the Healthcare Workers and Employers section.
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 environmental services 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 environmental services tasks associated with exposure risk levels
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.
Generally, environmental service (i.e., janitorial, cleaning) workers do not need special precautions beyond those already used to protect them 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 environmental services workers, depending on the results of their employers’ hazard and risk assessments.
CDC also provides information about cleaning and disinfection.
Ensure that areas being cleaned have proper ventilation, including by increasing air changes per hour and air circulation before and during cleaning tasks, and especially if workers need to access contaminated areas during the 24 hours that the CDC and OSHA recommend waiting between the time of contamination and when cleaning activities take place.
When cleaning contamination from human blood, body fluids, other potentially infectious materials, or other suspected or known sources of SARS-CoV-2:
- Restrict access to contaminated areas and post signage, only permitting access by essential personnel for up to 24 hours if possible. Allowing contamination to remain on non-porous surfaces during this time may permit potentially infectious viral particles to become non-infectious.
Note: When workers have occupational exposure to human blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials, employers also must follow OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).
Safe Work Practices
Employers should ensure that workers do not use cleaning procedures that could re-aerosolize infectious particles. That includes avoiding practices such as dry sweeping or use of high-pressure streams of water or cleaning chemicals, as appropriate (i.e., based on SARS-CoV-2 exposure risk in the work environment).
Workers should avoid touching their faces, including their eyes, noses, and mouths, particularly until after they have thoroughly washed their hands upon completing work and/or removing PPE.
Personal Protective Equipment
Most environmental services 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 more protective PPE ensembles.
PPE selection for environmental services workers should reflect:
- Risk and anticipated sources of exposure to SARS-CoV-2
- For routine cleaning, use gloves and gowns, along with any PPE normally used for routine job tasks.
- For cleaning environments contaminated with human blood, body fluids, other potentially infectious materials, or other suspected or known sources of SARS-CoV-2, workers may also need PPE such as masks and eye and face protection.
- Risk and anticipated sources of exposure to potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals
- For routine cleaning, use ordinary commercial-grade cleaning products, and follow manufacturer instructions, including as provided on the Safety Data Sheet, for selecting appropriate PPE to protect workers from chemical hazards.
- For cleaning environments contaminated with human blood, body fluids, other potentially infectious materials, or other suspected or known sources of SARS-CoV-2, use EPA-registered disinfectants with label claims to be effective against the virus, and follow manufacturer instructions, including as provided on the Safety Data Sheet, for selecting appropriate PPE to protect workers from chemical hazards.