- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
April 28, 1992
Mr. Edwin B. Downey Director,
U.S. West, Inc.
9785 Maroon Circle
Englewood, Colorado 80112
Dear Mr. Downey:
This is in response to your letter of March 24, regarding the applicability of 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens", to the telecommunications industry.
The bloodborne pathogens standard addresses the broad issue of occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials and is not meant solely for employees in health care settings. Since there is no population that is risk free for human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis B virus infectivity, any employee who has occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials is included within the scope of this standard.
It is important to note that "occupational exposure" is defined as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties". OSHA anticipates that this standard will impact upon all non-health care industries in a similar fashion, i.e., that employees who are designated as responsible for rendering first aid or medical assistance as part of their job duties are to be covered by this standard. This is because it is reasonable to anticipate that an employee who is designated to render medical assistance aid will have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials.
One point of clarification concerning your letter must be made. It is incorrect to state, as you do, that "the bloodborne pathogens standard specifically excludes good samaritans who are first aid trained from the scope of the rule". The standard, in fact, excludes employees who perform unanticipated "Good Samaritan" acts from coverage by the standard since such an action does not constitute "occupational exposure". However, the preamble specifically refers to "employees whose duty is to provide first aid or medical assistance" and states that "employers must provide them with the protection of this standard". Also in this section, is the following reference: "One employee may assist another employee who has a nosebleed or who is bleeding as the result of a fall. This [Good Samaritan act] would not be considered an occupational exposure unless the employee who provides assistance is a member of a first aid team or is otherwise expected to render medical assistance as one of his or her duties".
You are correct that 29 CFR 1910.268, OSHA's Telecommunications Standard, requires telecommunication employers to train employees in first aid. However, the agency believes that not all these employees would necessarily be designated to render medical assistance. The designation of specific individuals as responsible for rendering medical assistance is the employer's decision. For example, a stable six-person crew could have two of the six employees designated to render medical assistance and also to be covered by the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1030.
OSHA's regulatory impact analysis for the standard utilized the Agency's survey data on vaccine acceptance rates and estimated that approximately half of the employees offered the vaccine would accept it. The other requirements of the standard, such as training these employees in the hazards of bloodborne pathogens and providing them with the proper personal protective equipment for use in case an emergency occurs, are extremely basic needs for a designated first aid provider. To further clarify this issue, the agency is currently gathering additional information concerning the estimates of cost to the telecommunications industry.
We hope this information is responsive to your concerns. Thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.
Patricia K. Clark,
Directorate of Compliance Programs
March 24, 1992
Ms. Dorothy Strunk
Acting Assistant Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor - OSHA
200 Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Ms. Strunk:
U.S. WEST, Inc. is a Regional Bell Holding company and as such provides telecommunication services through its subsidiary U S WEST Communications, Inc. in 14 western states. The purpose of this letter is to request a formal interpretation of the new OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard 29 CFR 1910.1030. Our concern relates to §1910.1030(c)(1)(i) which requires:
Each employer having an employee(s) with occupational exposure as defined by paragraph (b) of this section shall establish a written exposure control plan designed to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.
Occupational exposure is defined in 1910.1030(b) as:
Reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucus membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other infectious materials that may result from the performance of a employee's duties.
Because U.S. WEST Communications, Inc. is regulated by the OSHA Telecommunications Standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.268, it is required to train covered employees in first aid and CPR. The rendering of first aid treatment by telecommunications workers is not "performance of an employee's duties", but rather a collateral job requirement tied to OSHA compliance. U.S. WEST takes the position that the reasonably anticipated exposure to bloodborne pathogens by employees who are required to be first aid trained pursuant to 1910.268 or 1910.151 is extremely low (we are not aware of a single case tied to U.S. WEST's first aid providers) and it cannot be anticipated that this experience will change. In fact, the bloodborne pathogens standard specifically excludes good samaritans who are first aid trained from the scope of the rule. It is our opinion that employees who are trained because of the 1910.268 or 1910.151 requirement have no more risk relative to bloodborne pathogens than dogood samaritans. Furthermore, as a responsible employer, U.S. WEST will continue to ensure that all operations are conducted in a manner that minimizes risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. In the very unlikely event that an incident involving potential employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens were to occur, appropriate response actions would be taken.
We were hopeful that the recently released OSHA Compliance Directive, CPL 2-2.44C would specifically address our question. However, the applicable language in CPL 2-2.44C does not provide sufficient clarification:
If an employee is trained in first aid and designated by the employer as responsible for rendering medical assistance as part of his or her job duties, that employee is covered by the standard. (emphasis added)
OSHA CPL 2-2.44C at p. 10. The critical term seems to be "designated by the employer." We find it very hard to believe that the § 1910.268 requirement triggers this language because every telecommunications employee covered by 1910.268 is required to have first aid training. If the term "designated" means "required by 1910.268", then U.S. WEST Communication, Inc. would be required to designate virtually all of its employees covered by 1910.1030. Applying the standard to all first aid trained employees under 1910.268 and 1910.151 makes no rational sense,is cost prohibitive with no health or safety benefit, and will most likely, where possible, result in efforts to minimize the number of employees trained in first aid under both 1910.268 and 1910.151, a clear detriment to the health and safety of employees and the public. Furthermore, we believe that it cannot be "reasonably anticipated" that employees covered by the 1910.268 or 1910.151 first aid requirements have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens as defined in 1910.1030 and we believe that employees trained in first aid pursuant to 1910.268 are not "designated" as first aid providers.
Because of differing opinions from various government and private entities relative to this issue, we felt it necessary to request a formal interpretation of the bloodborne pathogens rule relative to our telecommunications operations and first aid trained employees under 1910.268 and 1910.151. Accordingly, we respectfully request a written response which outlines OSHA's interpretation of its rule relative to application to telecommunications carriers such as U.S. WEST Communications as quickly as possible so that we can meet the May 5, 1992 effective date for functional requirements and the full compliance date of July 6, 1992.
I appreciate in advance any assistance you are able to provide us in this area and look forward to reviewing your response as soon as possible.
Edwin B. Downey
cc: Ed Duplak Rob Gleser David Heller Paul Johnson Jerry Kelly Steve Li Fred Miller Andy Shapiro Dewey Staeck Sue West