Anthrax

Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards, documents and other standards that may be applicable in the event of possible worker exposure to Bacillus anthracis (BA), which causes anthrax.

Employers whose workers will be involved in emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard must comply with OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard (29 CFR 1910.120). This may include emergency response following an anthrax incident. Instruction CPL 02-02-073 describes OSHA enforcement procedures under the relevant provisions of the HAZWOPER standard.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has promulgated a standard applying OSHA's HAZWOPER standard to state and local government workers in states where there is no OSHA-approved State Plan. See 40 CFR Part 311.

OSHA's HAZWOPER Safety and Health Topics page explains requirements of the OSHA HAZWOPER standard, including required worker training.

In situations with potential worker exposure to bioaerosols containing BA spores, including environmental releases, employers must also follow OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).

Other elements of infection control for BA are covered under OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) and 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 an employer 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." At times, OSHA uses the General Duty Clause to address hazards for which there are no specific standards (e.g., occupational exposure to BA).

Employers also must 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 labs, that may include the Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories standard (29 CFR 1910.1450). In addition, OSHA recommends that employers consult CDC guidance in order to implement a comprehensive worker protection program.

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 must file such complaints within 30 days.

Depending on the specific work task, setting, and exposure to biological or chemical agents, the following OSHA standards may apply (note that this listing by CFR part/standard number includes the standards described above):

OSHA Standards
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
Related Information

1910 Subpart E - Exit Routes and Emergency Planning

1910.38, Emergency action plans. See paragraph (a) for information related to emergency action plans.​

Related Information

1910 Subpart H - Hazardous Materials

1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response.

Related Information

1910 Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment

1910.132, General requirements.

Related Information

1910.133, Eye and face protection.

Related Information

1910.134, Respiratory Protection.

Related Information

1910.138, Hand Protection.

Related Information

1910 Subpart J - General Environmental Controls

1910.141, Sanitation.

Related Information

1910 Subpart K - Medical and First Aid

1910.151, Medical services and first aid.

Related Information

1910 Subpart Z - Toxic and Hazardous Substances

1910.1020, Access to employee exposure and medical records. (See also: 29 CFR 1904, Recording and reporting occupational injuries and illness)

Related Information

1910.1030, Bloodborne pathogens.

Related Information

1910.1200, Hazard Communication.

Related Information

1910.1450, Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories.

Related Information
Agriculture (29 CFR 1928)
Agriculture (29 CFR 1928)
Related Information

1928 Subpart I - General Environmental Controls

1928.110, Field Sanitation.

Related Information
State Standards

There are 28 OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards 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 bacteria (including BA and its spores), or other disease-causing organisms. While the Cal/OSHA ATD standard is mandatory for certain healthcare employers only in California, it may provide useful guidance for protecting other workers exposed to BA spores.

Additional Directives

Note: 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.