Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA


MERS - Photo Credit: NIH-NAID
MERS Menu Workers' Rights


This section highlights OSHA standards and the preamble to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), directives (instructions for compliance officers), and a Memorandum of Understanding, all of which may be applicable in the event of possible worker exposure to MERS-CoV.

Elements of infection control for MERS-CoV, including a number of precautions for diseases for which the route(s) of transmission may be uncertain, are covered under OSHA's PPE standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), the BBP standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), as well as Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1),  (often referred to as the General Duty Clause). Section 5(a)(1) requires employers to furnish to each worker "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." At times, OSHA uses the General Duty Clause to address hazards for which there are no specific standards (e.g., occupational exposure to MERS-CoV).

Consult the CDC guidance Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) to determine appropriate protections for healthcare workers exposed to MERS-CoV. The CDC's MERS web page describes MERS-specific infection control practices and PPE for healthcare and other workers.

When there is potential for worker exposure to bioaerosols containing MERS-CoV, employers must also follow OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134). The Background and Control and Prevention tabs provide additional information about potential aerosol exposure hazards and controls.
Employers must also protect their workers from exposure to chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. Where workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals, employers must comply with OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) and other applicable OSHA chemical standards.  In addition, OSHA recommends that employers consult CDC guidance in order to implement a comprehensive worker protection program. The OSHA Hospital e-Tool contains a section on Housekeeping, including information on hazardous chemicals used in hospitals and related OSHA standards.

Paragraph 11(c) of the OSH Act, 29 USC 660(c), 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. Workers have 30 days to file their complaints.

Depending on the specific work task, setting, and exposure to biological or chemical agents, some OSHA standards that may apply include:

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Preambles to Final Rules
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and OSHA's enforcement of the working conditions of aircraft cabin crewmembers

As defined in the FAA policy statement, an aircraft cabin crewmember means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft cabin when the aircraft is in operation (other than flightcrew members). Aircraft cabin crewmembers include flight attendants, workers assigned to clean and restock the cabin, and other workers assigned to perform duty in an aircraft cabin when the aircraft is in operation.  These workers, and baggage handlers, are covered by all OSHA standards when they are not working in an aircraft cabin when the aircraft is in operation.

For the purpose of the MOU and the policy statement, an aircraft is "in operation" from the time it is first boarded by a crewmember, preparatory to a flight, to the time the last crewmember leaves the aircraft after completion of that flight, including stops on the ground during which at least one crewmember remains on the aircraft, even if the engines are shut down.

  • Under section 4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 USC 653(b)(1), OSHA generally does not have authority to enforce the standards not encompassed in the MOU (e.g., the PPE standard) with respect to the working conditions of aircraft cabin crewmembers while they are onboard aircraft in operation.  The FAA, and not OSHA, generally has authority over those working conditions.
  • Separate from the MOU, OSHA has authority to enforce its regulations on recordkeeping, 29 CFR Part 1904, and access to employee exposure and medical records, 29 CFR § 1910.1020, to investigate employee complaints of discrimination for engaging in protected activity related to safety or health in the workplace under section 11(c) of the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. § 660(c), and to investigate employee complaints of discrimination for providing information about alleged violations of FAA requirements or of any Federal law relating to air carrier safety under section 519 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, Pub.L. 106-181, 49 U.S.C. § 42121.
  • Additional information is available in an OSHA Memorandum for Regional Administrators, "Applicability of Certain OSHA Standards to Cabin Crew Members on Aircraft in Operation."

Additional guidance is available on the Control and Prevention and Additional Resources tabs.

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