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 https://www.osha.gov.

June 1, 1992

 

 

MEMORANDUM FOR: ALL REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS
 
FROM: PATRICIA K. CLARK, DIRECTOR
DIRECTORATE OF COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS
 
SUBJECT: Clarification of Issues under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Settlement Agreements
 

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents nursing homes, have requested clarification on certain issues under the bloodborne pathogens standard that concern their industries. The NFDA was concerned about: (1) whether human remains would be regarded as "regulated waste;" (2) the significance of including human remains in the definition of "source individual;" and (3) the extent to which funeral home employers would be required to ensure that their workers wear personal protective equipment. The AHCA asked for clarification on the considerations that enter into the exposure determinations the employer must make under paragraph (c)(2) and on whether the records retention requirement of paragraph (h) required the employer to physically maintain employee medical records at the worksite.

The attached letters from the Acting Assistant Secretary explain OSHA's position on the points raised by NFDA and AHCA and should be consulted for guidance in enforcing the standard with respect to the above issues.

Attachments:

 

 

 



April 29, 1992

Ms. Carol J. Hendrick
Government Relations Coordinator
National Funeral Directors Association
11121 West Oklahoma Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53208

Re: Clarification of Application of Certain Provisions of OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to Funeral Homes

Dear Ms. Hendrick:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) bloodborne pathogens standard, issued on December 6, 1991, applies to all occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. As the National Funeral Directors Association acknowledged during the rulemaking proceeding, funeral homes are among the workplaces known to have such exposure.

In a meeting with members of my staff on February 20, you explained that you support the standard but asked for guidance on the manner in which certain of its provisions would apply to funeral homes. Your concerns included whether a dead human body would be considered "regulated waste," as that term is used in the standard, and how the inclusion of human remains in the definition of "source individual" would affect funeral homes. You also expressed concern that OSHA would require funeral home employers to ensure the use of personal protective equipment in situations in which employees' exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials is not reasonably anticipated.

First, employees handling a body must, as you recognize, be protected against contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials. However, the standard does not include a human body within the term "regulated waste," which is defined as:

 

 

 

[... liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials.]

Since human remains are not regulated waste under the standard, the requirements governing the containment, disposal, and labeling of regulated waste found in 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(B) & (C) and 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(1) do not apply to a human body or to containers used to store, transport, or ship a human body. Moreover, an intact human body, whether alive or dead, is not a "specimen" of blood or other potentially infectious materials to which the containerization and labeling requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(xiii) would apply. Although the standard does not require labeling of a container holding a human body as a biohazard, nothing in this letter should be read as detracting from the need to utilize a means of containment under certain circumstances, such as decay or trauma, to contain blood or other potentially infectious materials and prevent exposure.

Second, the standard defines "source individual" to include: [any individual, living or dead, whose blood or other potentially infectious materials may be a source of occupational exposure to the employee. Examples include, but are not limited to, hospital and clinic patients; clients in institutions for the developmentally disabled; trauma victims; clients of drug and alcohol treatment facilities; residents of hospices and nursing homes; human remains; and individuals who donate or sell blood or blood components.]

By including human remains in this definition, OSHA intended that a specific exposure incident resulting from contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials from human remains would trigger the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1030(f) regarding evaluation, treatment, and follow-up of an employee who suffers an exposure incident. OSHA considers the inherent risk of exposure from human remains to be similar to that from a living human being. As with living human beings, occupational exposure from human remains arises only from reasonably anticipated contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. For the purpose of this standard, occupational exposure does not occur if contact with such material is not reasonably anticipated.

Third, with regard to the use of protective equipment, OSHA recognizes that the selection and type of personal protective equipment and the degree to which it must resist penetration are performance-based. The employer must evaluate the task and the type of exposure expected and, based on the determination, select the "appropriate" personal protective equipment in accordance with paragraph (d)(3)(i) of the standard. As OSHA stated in the preamble to the final standard (56 Fed. Reg. at 64