- 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 https://www.osha.gov.
September 17, 1992
Mr. George R. Green
Assistant General Counsel
Food Marketing Institute
800 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-2701
Dear Mr. Green:
This is in further response to your letter of July 28, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens." Specifically, you expressed concern that the standard is applicable to the grocery retailers and wholesalers and other non-health care industries. Please accept our apology for the delay in this response.
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.
The standard defines occupational exposure 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. The qualification of "reasonably anticipated" does not apply to the likelihood of "infection" as suggested in your letter. OSHA anticipates that this standard will impact upon your industry in a similar fashion as upon other non-health care industries, 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 workplaces are potential scenes of accident and trauma and employees designated to render first aid will have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Employees who perform unanticipated "Good Samaritan acts", however, are not covered by the standard since such actions do not constitute occupational exposure as defined by the standard.
As you noted in your letter, OSHA has issued a policy statement specifying that, while designated first aiders are covered under the scope of the standard, failure to offer the hepatitis B vaccine pre-exposure to persons who render first aid only as a collateral duty will be considered a de minimis violation carrying no penalties, provided that a number of conditions are met (see enclosed news release). All other requirements of the standard continue to apply to designated first aid providers.
You also expressed concern that compliance with the requirements of the standard may be burdensome for non-health care employers. You should note, however, that it is the employer's responsibility to determine which job classifications involve occupational exposure, and that the employer is only required to provide the protections of the standard to those employees having occupational exposure. In workplace facilities such as you have described in your industry, only certain designated employees may have duties which involve occupational exposure. Employees who do not have occupational exposure are not covered by the scope of this standard. Costs associated with recordkeeping and other requirements may therefore be limited and controlled by the employer.
We hope this information is responsive to your concerns and the concerns of your constituents. Thank you for your interest in employee safety and health.
Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs