- 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.
April 18, 1996
Julie Thompson, R.N., M.S.N., CNOR
University of Texas Medical Branch
301 University Boulevard
Galveston, Texas 77555-0589
Dear Ms. Thompson:
Thank you for your letter addressed to John Miles of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the agency's requirements addressing hazards of smoke generated from surgical procedures. Specifically, you inquired if there is a specific OSHA guideline that mandates the evacuation of surgical smoke generated by electrosurgery during operative procedures.
OSHA does not have a specific standard that addresses inhalation hazards related to smoke from surgical procedures. Related to your question, OSHA does have a regulation that addresses the hazards of bloodborne pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030). A copy has been enclosed.
Please understand that in cases where a particular hazard is not addressed by any OSHA standard, the general duty clause may be cited. The general duty clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, applies to all employers and requires each employer to provide employees with a place of employment which is free of recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm. Section 5(a)(1) citations must of course meet the requirements outlined in OSHA's Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM) Chapter III. C., and will only be issued where there is a serious and recognized hazard in the workplace which can be feasibly abated.
Enclosed for your information is a Health Hazard Information Bulletin: Hazard of Laser Surgery Smoke, dated April 11, 1988, that you may find informative.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.
Ruth McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance
April 8, 1996
Director of Compliance
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
Dear Mr. Miles:
I am writing to clear up an issue regarding the evacuation of surgical smoke generated by electrosurgery during operative procedures. Is there a specific OSHA guideline that mandates the evacuation of surgical smoke generated by electrosurgery during operative procedures?
Today I spoke with Richard Fairfax and he stated that there is not a specific standard regarding this issue. However, he did state that this issue does fall under OSHA Employee Safety Standards (General Duty, section 5 A-1) and that the use of an evacuation system depends on the potential infectious agents to which an employee may be exposed.
For documentation purposes, I would like a letter from you stating that OSHA does not have a specific standard regarding evacuation of surgical smoke generated by electrosurgery during operative procedures, but that this issue falls under the Employee Safety Standards. Also, would you please address in your letter how an operating room would be compliant regarding this issue, since there is not a specific standard.
If you have any questions regarding my request, please telephone me at 409-772-5729. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Julie Thompson, R.N., M.S.N., CNOR