In October 2001, five workers died from
inhalation anthrax and an additional 13 developed cutaneous or
inhalational disease as a result of intentional terrorist activity.
In most cases seen so far, the disease was linked to unexpected
workplace exposures to anthrax spores contained in letters mailed
through the United States Postal Service. Fortunately, the number of
workplaces contaminated with the spores has also been quite limited.
Nevertheless, employers and workers are concerned about possible
exposure to Bacillus anthracis in the
Use the following link to help you decide if there is a credible
risk of anthrax exposure at your worksite:
The following categories of employees could
potentially be exposed to anthrax:
The anthrax exposures that occurred as a
result of the criminal/terrorist acts received a great deal of media
attention. However, anthrax exposure is most common in animal
handling and related occupations, where Bacillus
anthracis spores can exist naturally. The following
link provides more information regarding other occupations that are
at-risk of anthrax exposure:
Risk Reduction Matrix
matrix was developed to offer basic advice and suggest
protective measures that OSHA believes will reduce the risk
of exposure in light of current concerns about the presence
of anthrax spores in the workplace. To help employers
determine appropriate precautions, OSHA categorizes
worksites into three risk zones - green, yellow, and red -
based on the likelihood of contamination with anthrax
- Green Zone: Workplaces
where contamination with anthrax spores is unlikely
This zone covers the vast
majority of workplaces in the United States. Since
October 2001, anthrax spores have been discovered only
in a very limited number of workplaces. If your
workplace falls into the Green Zone, it is unlikely that
specific measures to protect against anthrax exposure
- Yellow Zone: Workplaces
where contamination with anthrax spores is possible
Examples of workplaces in the Yellow Zone
The following link provides additional
information for workplaces that fall into the Yellow Zone:
- Workplaces that handle bulk mail (especially, working near
equipment such as high-speed processors/sorters that could
aerosolize anthrax spores),
- Workplaces that handle mail from other facilities that are
known to be contaminated,
- Workplaces in close proximity to other facilities known to
be contaminated, and
- Workplaces that may be targets of bioterrorists.
- Red Zone: Workplaces
where authorities have informed you that contamination with
anthrax spores has been confirmed or is strongly suspected
Red Zone guidance addresses two
Actions taken by an employer under these
circumstances may vary depending on the specific facts and the
nature of the incident. Employers should follow
instructions given by law enforcement and public health agencies
and convey appropriate information to employees.
- Workplaces where authorities have informed you that
contamination with anthrax spores has been confirmed or is
strongly suspected, and
- Sites where emergency response workers are engaged in
emergency response to, and cleanup of, bioterrorist
releases of anthrax spores.
The following links provide additional
information for workplaces that fall into the Red Zone:
Exposed Through Criminal/Terrorist Acts
Workers whose jobs would not ordinarily involve anthrax
exposure could be exposed through acts of terrorism.
- Conventional thinking is that terrorists are likely to
target places where large populations can be found such as
large buildings, sporting events, or mass transit systems.
- Recent events have shown that there is a wider range of
physical locations that could be targeted and this expands the
range of employees who could be exposed.
The following link will help you determine if
your normal health and safety precautions will protect you or your
employees against anthrax exposure during an emergency response.
Emergency responders, including police, firefighters,
emergency medical services workers, and others who are
responsible for responding to acts of terrorism may be
exposed to anthrax.
- Health and safety precautions, including
protective equipment (PPE) and respirators, used by
emergency response workers will help protect them against
The following links will provide additional
emergency response information for health care workers:
Health care workers in occupational settings such as
hospitals, clinics, and medical laboratories may be
exposed to anthrax as a result of contact with patients
whose skin, clothing, or personal effects are contaminated
with anthrax spores, or through contact with contaminated
- Anthrax is not a contagious disease.
- Because the most likely exposure route for health care
workers is dermal contact, normal health and safety
precautions (such as wearing latex/nitrile examination
gloves) will protect these workers against cutaneous
Employers in animal-handling occupations who
anticipate exposure may find the following information useful:
Anthrax is most common in occupations involving animals,
animal hides, or fibers. Grazing animals such as cattle,
sheep, goats, and horses are chief animal hosts of
- Occupations susceptible to exposure include shepherds,
farmers, butchers, handlers of imported hides or fibers,
weavers, veterinarians, and veterinary pathologists.
- Anthrax can be found globally. However, it is more
common in developing countries or countries without
veterinary public health programs.
Veterinary Services: Anthrax - General Information and Vaccination. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), (2001, October).
- Epizootiology and Ecology of Anthrax [1 MB PDF, 44 pages]. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Accessibility Assistance: Contact the OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at 202-693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.