There are twenty-eight OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standard and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard is aimed at preventing worker illness from infectious diseases that can be transmitted by inhaling air that contains viruses (including Ebola), bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. While the Cal/OSHA ATD standard is only mandatory for certain healthcare employers in California, it may provide useful guidance for protecting other workers exposed to Ebola virus.
This section highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules, directives (instruction to OSHA staff), and memoranda of understanding that may be applicable in the event of possible worker exposure to the Ebola virus.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) covers exposure to Ebola virus. Ebola is among the subset of contact-transmissible diseases to which the Bloodborne Pathogens standard applies, as it is transmitted by blood or other potentially infectious materials as defined in the standard.
In situations where workers may be exposed to bioaerosols containing Ebola virus, employers must also follow OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
Other elements of infection control for Ebola, including a number of precautions for contact-transmissible diseases, are covered under OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard (29 CFR 1910.132) and Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, often referred to as the General Duty Clause. Section 5(a)(1) requires employers to "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." This section may be used to address hazards for which there are no specific standards (e.g., occupational exposure to Ebola virus).
Under the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, and the PPE and other standards, OSHA has the ability to require employers to fully protect healthcare and other workers who may be exposed to Ebola virus. The best way to determine appropriate protections for workers exposed to Ebola is to consult the CDC guidance, which includes recommendations for PPE and infection control practices from CDC's Ebola web page.
Employers also must protect their workers from exposure to chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. Employers would likely need to comply with provisions from a combination of OSHA standards and CDC guidance in order to implement a comprehensive worker protection program.
Paragraph 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions. OSHA encourages workers who suffer such discrimination to submit a complaint to OSHA. Such complaints must be filed within 30 days.
Depending on the specific work task, setting, and exposure to biological or chemical agents, additional OSHA standards, including the following, may also apply:
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
- 1910 Subpart I, Personal protective equipment
- 1910.132, General requirements [related topic page]
- 1910.133, Eye and face protection [related topics page]
- 1910.134, Respiratory protection [related topic page]
- Appendix A, Fit testing procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix B-1, User seal check procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix B-2, Respiratory cleaning procedures (Mandatory)
- Appendix C, OSHA respirator medical evaluation questionnaire (Mandatory)
- Appendix D, Information for employees using respirators when not required under standard (Mandatory)
- 1910.138, Hand protection
- 1910 Subpart J, General environmental controls
- 1910.141, Sanitation
- 1910 Subpart Z, Toxic and hazardous substances [related topic page]
- 1910.1200, Hazard Communication [related topic page]
- Appendix A, Health Hazard Criteria (Mandatory)
- Appendix B, Physical Hazard Criteria (Mandatory)
- Appendix C, Allocation of Label Elements (Mandatory)
- Appendix D, Safety Data Sheets (Mandatory)
- Appendix E, Definition of "Trade Secret" (Mandatory)
- Appendix F, Guidance for Hazard Classifications Re: Carcinogenicity (Non-Mandatory)
Preambles to final rules
- Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030)
- Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard. CPL 02-02-079, (July 9, 2015). Establishes policies and procedures to ensure uniform enforcement of the Hazard Communication standard (HCS).
- Inspection procedures for the Respiratory Protection Standard. CPL 02-00-158, (June 26, 2014). Establishes agency interpretations and enforcement policies, and provides instructions to ensure uniform enforcement of the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
- Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in General Industry. CPL 02-01-050, (October 2, 2011). Establishes OSHA's general enforcement and guidance policy for its standards addressing PPE. It instructs OSHA enforcement personnel on both the agency's interpretations of those standards and the procedures for enforcing them.
- Rules of agency practice and procedure concerning OSHA access to employee medical records. CPL 02-02-072, (August 22, 2007). Provides guidance to OSHA personnel concerning application of the rules of agency practice and procedure set forth at 29 CFR 1913.10 when accessing personally identifiable employee medical records. Guidance is also provided concerning Assistant Secretary authorization to conduct limited review of specific employee medical information when OSHA standards require such information and there is a need to gain access for the purpose of determining compliance.
- Recordkeeping Policies and Procedures Manual. CPL 02-00-135, (December 30, 2004). Transmits enforcement information and provides changes and additions to CPL 02-00-131/CPL 2-0.131 of January 1, 2002, Chapter 1; Paragraph V; Federal Program Changes and Chapter 5, Frequently Asked Questions on OSHA's recordkeeping regulations.
- Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens. CPL 02-02-069, (November 27, 2001). Establishes policies and provides clarification to ensure uniform inspection procedures are followed when conducting inspections to enforce the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
Memoranda of Understanding
- Information on Memorandum of Understanding between OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Flight Attendant/Cabin Crew Health and Safety. The safety and health of flight crews are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and such workers are generally not subject to OSHA requirements. However, under a memorandum of understanding between the FAA and OSHA, they are subject to the following OSHA standards: