- Safety and Health Topics
OSHA requires employers to protect workers from occupational exposure to Ebola virus, chemicals used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces contaminated with Ebola virus, and other related hazards.
In the case where there is no OSHA standard applicable to a specific hazardous exposure, employers still may be required to implement infection prevention and control measures necessary to protect workers under Section 5(a)(1), commonly known as the "General Duty Clause," of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Employers must follow applicable OSHA standards where there is occupational exposure to Ebola virus, including the:
- Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). The BBP standard requires employers to, among other things, implement an exposure control plan (ECP) and provide appropriate personal protective equipment when workers may be occupationally exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart E). Similar to the BBP standard, the PPE standards require employers to provide and ensure workers use items such as gloves, goggles, and face shields. Among OSHA's PPE standards, the Respiratory Protection standards (29 CFR 1910.134 and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926.103) also apply to situations in which workers may be exposed to bioaerosols containing Ebola virus.
Under the BBP and PPE standards, employers must protect healthcare and other workers who may be exposed to Ebola virus. CDC guidance also contains useful information on how to protect workers exposed to Ebola virus, including recommendations for PPE and infection control practices on the CDC's Ebola webpage. 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.
Depending on the specific work task, setting, and exposure to biological or chemical agents, applicable OSHA requirements may include:
Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness (29 CFR 1904)
|29 CFR 1904 – Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness|
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
|1910 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment||1910.132, General requirements|
|1910.133, Eye and face protection|
|1910.134, Respiratory protection|
|1910.138, Hand protection|
|Subpart J – General Environmental Controls||1910.141, Sanitation|
|Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances||1910.1020, Access to employee exposure and medical records|
|1910.1030, Bloodborne pathogens|
|1910.1200, Hazard communication|
Construction (29 CFR 1926)
|Subpart C – General Safety and Health Provisions||1926.33, Access to employee exposure and medical records|
|Subpart D – Occupational Health and Environmental Controls||1926.51, Sanitation|
|Subpart E – Personal Protective Equipment and Life Saving Equipment||1926.95, Criteria for personal protective equipment|
|1926.102, Eye and face protection|
|1926.103, Respiratory protection|
Federal Agencies (29 CFR 1960)
|29 CFR 1960 – Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters|
Implementing applicable OSHA standards and required protections in the workplace
Employers must evaluate hazards in their workplaces and may need to comply with applicable OSHA standards for hazards identified (e.g., exposure to Ebola virus).
Hazard and Exposure Assessment
- Conduct a hazard assessment that considers potential sources of occupational exposure to Ebola virus and related hazards, jobs and job tasks which may result in worker exposure, and the risks and routes of exposure associated with those jobs or job tasks. Hazard and/or exposure assessments are required whenever the BBP, PPE, and Respiratory Protection standards apply. The Hazard Recognition page provides more information about hazard and exposure assessment.
Written Plans and Programs
- Under the BBP, Respiratory Protection, and Hazard Communication (HazCom) standards, employers must have implementation plans or programs, including the written elements required in each of those standards. The HazCom standard does not apply to biological hazards such as Ebola virus but may apply to the chemicals used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces contaminated with Ebola virus.
- The BBP standard requires a written exposure control plan (ECP) that includes exposure determinations (described in more detail on the Hazard Recognition page), methods of compliance, medical evaluation and post-exposure procedures, procedures for communicating hazards to workers, and protocols for recordkeeping.
- The BBP standard also requires employers to update existing ECPs annually and as necessary to address new or modified jobs and job tasks or procedures that affect occupational exposure.
- Employers must solicit input from workers in reviewing and updating the ECP.
- The ECP must be available to workers for review.
- Whenever respirators are necessary to protect the health of workers, the Respiratory Protection standard requires employers to develop and implement a written respiratory protection program (RPP) with worksite-specific procedures. A comprehensive RPP includes training, fit testing, medical exams, and use of NIOSH-certified respirators appropriate for controlling particulates (including viral particles), chemical vapors, and other air contaminants as needed.
Selection and Use of PPE
- The general requirements of the PPE standard (29 CFR 1910.132) describe the basis for effective selection and use of adequate PPE including protective garments.
- Select PPE for use based on the hazards identified during hazard assessments and worker exposure determinations. Consider the work tasks being performed and, for healthcare workers, the patient's clinical status if providing direct patient care. The Control and Prevention page and OSHA's PPE Selection Matrix provide additional information about the types of PPE employers may need to provide under OSHA standards and in order for workers to perform their jobs safely.
- All employer-selected PPE for the eyes, face, hands, and body selected to be worn by workers with occupational exposure to Ebola virus must comply with the OSHA PPE standards at 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I (including 29 CFR 1910.132, .133, .134, and .138) and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart E (including 29 CFR 1926.95, .102, and .103). and the BBP standard 29 CFR 1910.1030.
- The Respiratory Protection standards (29 CFR 1910.134 and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926.103), require employers to identify and evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace. If respiratory hazards exist, employers must implement a comprehensive, written RPP that includes training, fit testing, medical exams, and use of NIOSH-certified respirators. The Hazard Recognition page describes hazard assessment and the Control and Prevention page discusses the types of respirators employers may need to provide workers under the Respiratory Protection standard.
- Employers must train workers on the limitations and capabilities of their respirators. See 29 CFR 1910.134(k).
- Employers must ensure PPE is cleaned, repaired, and replaced, as needed. Provision, maintenance, repair, and replacement must be provided at no cost to the worker. See 29 CFR 1910.132(h) and .1030(d)(3).
Post-exposure evaluation and follow-up
- In the case of an unprotected exposure to blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials suspected or known to have Ebola virus contamination, employers must assure that workers receive prompt and appropriate medical evaluation and follow-up. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(f)(3).
- The CDC provides recommendations for post-exposure actions.
- Most, if not all, states require procedures to be in place for reporting any Ebola-related exposure incident to local and state health departments.
- The BBP, PPE, Respiratory Protection, and HazCom standards each require worker training when the standard applies. Provide information and training to all workers who may be exposed to Ebola virus and related hazards on the job.
- Under the BBP standard, training must include an explanation of the employer's ECP. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2).
- Training must cover how Ebola is transmitted, the signs, symptoms, clinical evaluation/treatment of Ebola; proper hand hygiene practices; and other elements of a comprehensive infection control program.
- Train workers on proper procedures to appropriately contain, clean, and decontaminate materials and surfaces with Ebola virus contamination.
- Train workers on what PPE they must use to protect themselves from Ebola virus exposure, and explain why specific PPE was chosen.
- Training also must include hands-on practice with PPE so workers are able to demonstrate competency in correct donning (putting-on), use, and doffing (taking-off) of PPE to minimize the risk of skin and mucous membrane contact, preventing self-contamination. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2).
- The BBP standard requires training to be interactive: workers must be able to ask questions of a trainer knowledgeable in the subject matter covered by the elements contained in the training program as it relates to the workplace that the training will address.
Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements and Access to Employee Medical Records
- Employers are responsible for preparing and maintaining records of occupational injuries and illnesses. See 29 CFR Part 1904.
- All workplace-acquired Ebola infection(s) must be recorded on the employer's OSHA 300 log. Under OSHA's updated recordkeeping and reporting requirements, employers must also report to OSHA all work-related hospitalizations within 24 hours and fatalities within eight hours.
- Employers must provide access to all employer-maintained exposure and medical records to the worker, workers' designated representative(s) (e.g., labor union), and OSHA. See 29 CFR 1910.1020.
Additional information about specific OSHA requirements
The table below explains where in OSHA’s general industry standards and recordkeeping regulations workers and employers can find requirements for hazard and exposure assessment, implementation programs, workplace controls, training, and recordkeeping, as well as prohibitions for retaliation, as they relate to protecting workers from occupational exposure to Ebola virus.
Note: This does not cover standards for other industries over which OSHA maintains authority for workplace safety and health, including construction and maritime, and in which workers may also have occupational exposure to Ebola virus. Employers in those industries should consult the Overview of Applicable OSHA Standards section for more information on which standards may apply to their workplaces.
|Note: Letters mentioned in the table refer to paragraphs containing main provisions of OSHA standards with which employers should be familiar. Other parts of these standards and additional standards not mentioned in the table may apply.||Bloodborne Pathogens
29 CFR 1910.1030
|Personal Protective Equipment
General Requirements, 29 CFR 1910.132
|Personal Protective Equipment
Eye & Face Protection, 29 CFR 1910.133
29 CFR 1910.134
|Personal Protective Equipment
Hand Protection, 29 CFR 1910.138
29 CFR 1910.1200
|Access to Employee Exposure & Medical Records
29 CFR 1910.1020
|Recording and Reporting
Occupational Injuries & Illnesses,
29 CFR Part 1904
generally to potential
|Ebola virus||(a), (b)||(a)||(a)(1)*||(a)||(a)*||(b); (c)(13)||29 CFR 1904.4(a)-(b)|
|Chemical hazards (e.g., cleaning and disinfection)||(a)||(a)(1)||(a)||(a)||(b)||(b)||29 CFR 1904.4(a)-(b)|
|Physical hazards (e.g., sharps, mechanical)||(a)||(a)(1),(2)||(a)||(b)||29 CFR 1904.4(a)-(b)|
|Required, generally||(c)(2)||(d)(1)||(d)(1)(i), (iii)||(b)*||(d)|
|Written requirements||(c)(1) and (2)||(d)(2)||(e)|
|Required, generally||(c)(1)||(d)(1), (2)||(c)||(e)|
|Written requirements||(c)(1) and (2)||(d)(2)||(c)||(e)|
|Worker involvement in development||(c)(1)(v)||(l)||29 CFR 1904.35, .36|
|Controls||Engineering controls||(d)(2), (d)(4)||(a)(1)|
|Safer work practices||(d)(2), (d)(4)||(f)|
|PPE||(d)(3)||(a)||(a), (b)||(a), (d), (f), (g)||(a), (b)|
|Training||Required, generally||(g)(2)(ii)||(f)(1)||(c), (k)||(h)|
|Periodic training||(g)(2)(ii)(B), (iv), (v)||(f)(3)||(k)(5)||(h)(1)|
|In a language and format worker(s) can understand||(g)(2)(vi)||(k)(2)|
|Covers use of PPE (e.g., donning and doffing)||(g)(2)(vii)(F), (G)||(f)(1)(iii)||(c)||(h)(3)(iii)|
|Workers must demonstrate competency||(f)(2)|
|Recordkeeping||Maintenance of medical records for employers with exposure||(h)(1)||(m)||(b)-(d)||29 CFR 1904|
|Sharps injury log||(h)(5)|
|Access by OSHA and/or NIOSH||(h)(3)||(e)(3)|
|Retaliation||Prohibitions against employer retaliation||29 CFR 1904.36|
*The Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) provides a better framework for selection and use of this type of PPE for Ebola virus, but other OSHA PPE standards in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I (and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart E) may still apply.
Workers’ Rights and Employers’ Responsibilities
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions. Additionally, OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the provisions of more than 20 industry specific federal laws protecting employees from retaliation for raising or reporting concerns about hazards or violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. OSHA encourages workers who suffer such retaliation to submit a complaint to OSHA and should contact OSHA as soon as possible in order to file their complaint within the legal time limits, some of which may be as short as 30 days from the date they learned of or experienced retaliation. An employee can file a complaint with OSHA by visiting or calling his or her local OSHA office; sending a written complaint via fax, mail, or email to the closest OSHA office; or filing a complaint online. No particular form is required and complaints may be submitted in any language.
OSHA has developed a set of recommendations intended to assist employers in creating workplaces that are free of retaliation and provide guidance to employers on how to properly respond to workers who may complain about workplace hazards or potential violations of federal laws. OSHA urges employers to review its publication: Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs (OSHA 3905 - 2017).
Preambles to final rules
Note: The "Directives" bullets above link to directives related to each OSHA standard. The directives in this list provide additional information that is not necessarily connected to a specific OSHA standard highlighted on this Safety and Health Topics page.
- 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.
- 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
While the safety and health of aircraft flight deck crew and aircraft cabin crewmembers is typically under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s authority, a 2013 FAA Policy Statement and a 2014 FAA-OSHA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) extend some OSHA protections to and authority over cabin crewmembers. See 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. Under the MOU, cabin crewmembers aboard aircraft in operation are subject to protections under the Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030) and Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200) standards.
Assistance for Employers
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems. To locate the OSHA On-site Consultation Program nearest you, call 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA) or visit www.osha.gov/consultation.