- 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.
July 15, 1994
Mr. Gary H. Myers
Metropolitan Neurology Ltd
226 South Woods Mill Road Suite 59
West Chesterfield, Missouri 63017
Dear Dr. Myers:
Thank you for your letter of June 16, addressed to former Secretary of Labor, Lynn Martin, regarding your concerns about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens." You expressed interest about the necessity for the standard and the standard's requirements, as well as other pertinent regulations.
The bloodborne pathogens standard is designed to protect the nation's workers, particularly health care workers, from exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and other bloodborne pathogens. Of the diseases caused by these viruses, hepatitis B is the most common, with 8,700 cases per year among workers in the health care profession. Hepatitis B infection may result in serious illness, potential long term disability and death. HIV causes AIDS, for which there currently is no cure and which eventually results in death. These viruses, as well as other organisms that cause bloodborne diseases, are found in human blood and certain other human body fluids. Therefore, employers have a particular responsibility to ensure that workers do not come into direct contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials while performing their job.
In order to explain the general requirements of the standard, OSHA published five fact sheets and six bloodborne pathogens compliance assistance booklets, including booklets for acute care facilities, emergency responders, dentists, and nursing homes. OSHA also produced a motivational video titled "As It Should Be Done." The enclosed sheet lists titles and ordering information for all of these materials.
OSHA has ten regional offices around the United States, each with a bloodborne pathogens coordinator to respond to inquiries about the standard. A listing of telephone numbers and addresses is enclosed. Since December 1991, the OSHA staff in the National, Regional and Area Offices have been conducting extensive outreach, training and education meetings on the Bloodborne Pathogens standard with a wide range of groups, including physicians and dentists. Over 1,000 individual meetings have been held and over 80,000 individuals have participated. This is the largest, most extensive, training and education effort in the 20 year history of OSHA. This effort is ongoing and will continue. Please contact the OSHA office in your area to request a speaker or other assistance.
Most American health care professionals follow safe practices; however, the risks of illness and death from HBV and HIV for workers are too great to ignore and they mandate the full employee protection and training required by the standard.
In your letter, you referenced the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 1970. The Act established OSHA as an enforcement agency regarding employee safety and health in the workplace. For General Industry, OSHA developed regulations which appear in the Code of Federal Regulations, 29 CFR parts 1900 to 1910. It is the responsibility of employers to become familiar with standards applicable to their establishments and to ensure that employees have and use personal protective equipment when required for safety. Consultation assistance is available to employers who want help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful workplace. Additional information concerning consultation assistance, including a directory of OSHA-funded consultation projects, can be obtained by requesting OSHA publication No. 3047, Consultation Services for the Employer, available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, (202) 783-3238.
The enclosed information provides additional information on the agency's compliance and enforcement policies and procedures for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
We hope this information assists you in creating a safe and healthy workplace. Thank you for your interest in worker safety and health.
John B. Miles, Jr. Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs