- 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.
May 8, 1996
The Honorable Tim Hutchinson
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Hutchinson:
This is in further response to your letter of November 27, 1995, concerning issues raised by your constituent, Ms. Darlene Smith, Executive Director of the Benton County Sunshine School, Inc., in Bentonville, Arkansas. In her letter, Ms. Smith questions the degree to which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogen Standard must be instituted at Sunshine School and other such institutions, and whether regulatory relief can be afforded to those institutions experiencing limited financial resources. Please accept our apology for the delay in this response.
Your first question asked specifically whether the Sunshine School is actually going beyond what is required by the current bloodborne pathogens statutes. As background, please bear in mind that the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, is designed to protect the nation's workers from exposure to the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and other bloodborne pathogens. Hepatitis B infection may result in serious illness, long term disability, and death. The HIV virus 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 body fluids. Therefore, employers have a particular responsibility to ensure that employees do not come into direct contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials while performing their job.
One of the central provisions of the bloodborne pathogens standard is that employers are responsible for determining which job classification or specific tasks and procedures reasonably can be anticipated to result in worker contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Ms. Smith stated that every employee must be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine. However, only those employees with occupational exposure must be offered the vaccine. In a school, such as the Sunshine School, only certain employees may have jobs which involve occupational exposure, although OSHA expects an employer to take into account all potential circumstances of exposure (such as biting and contact with skin lesions) when determining which, if any, employees in a facility have occupational exposure. If it is determined that an employee has occupational exposure, defined as reasonable anticipated exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials as the result of performing one's job duties, then that employee is covered by all sections of the standard including training, vaccination, personal protective equipment, and so forth. Employees who do not have occupational exposure are not covered by the scope of the standard.
Your second question concerned regulatory relief that may extend to institutions such as the Sunshine school. Shortly, following the promulgation of the Standard, OSHA implemented a policy that allowed offering the Hepatitis B vaccine following an exposure incident to those employees who render first aid as a collateral duty. Employees who are designated as responsible for rendering medical assistance as part of their job duties are covered by the scope of this standard. However, individuals whose only exposure is in rendering first aid as a collateral duty, may be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine after an exposure incident. This policy limits the number of individuals who must initially be offered the vaccine. Please refer to the enclosed news release for additional information on the circumstances under which this exception would apply.
Ms. Smith might also be interested to know that OSHA offers a free Consultation Service to employers who wish to find out about potential hazards at their worksites, receive information about hazard abatement and improve their occupational safety and health management systems. The consultant, along with employer input, determine appropriate hazard abatement time frames. This service is offered in all 50 States to small employers in high hazard industries and must be requested by the employer. It is delivered by state governments using well trained safety and health consultants. The Consultation Service is completely separate from OSHA's enforcement program and employers' names are kept confidential. If Ms. Smith is interested in finding out more about this program, she may contact the Consultation Service in her State at the following address:
Mr. Clark E. Thomas
Labor Safety Administrator
Arkansas Department of Labor
10421 West Markham
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205
Telephone: (501) 682-4522
In conclusion, in schools such as the Benton County Sunshine School, only certain employees may have jobs which involve occupational exposure. However, OSHA expects an employer to take into account all potential circumstances of exposure. Employees who do not have occupational exposure are not covered by the scope of this standard.
We appreciate your concerns for safety and health in the workplace, and trust the above provides the information you have requested. Should you have additional concerns on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact OSHA's Office of Health Compliance Assistance on (202) 219-8036 for further information.
Joseph A. Dear
November 27, 1995
The Honorable Joseph Dear
Assistance Secretary, United States
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 21210
Dear Mr. Dear:
Please find enclosed a copy of a letter that I received from a preschool located in my district regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) bloodborne pathogen regulations.
As you will note from Ms. Smith's letter, the Sunshine School is simply overwhelmed by all of the requirements placed upon them by OSHA's bloodborne pathogen regulations. And, while I certainly recognize the importance of promoting and maintaining a safe workplace, especially in this situation where children are involved, is there not any relief available to institutions such as Sunshine Schools?
Specifically, I would like to receive your input on two questions. First, is the Sunshine School actually going beyond what is required of them by the current bloodborne pathogen statutes? Second, if they are operating based on the requirements of OSHA's regulations, is there not any regulatory relief or flexibility that your agency could provide an institution such as Sunshine Schools who simply do not have the resources available to meet the current requirements.
I would appreciate your providing me with your thoughts on this matter, as well as any recommendation that you could provide to facilitate the school's efforts to provide a safe and healthy workplace without exhausting its limited resources.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your response.
With kind regards, Sincerely,
Member of Congress
Representative Tim Hutchinson
1541 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Hutchinson,
It has come to my attention that you are a member of the committee on economic and educational opportunities which has jurisdiction legislation to overhaul the occupational safety and health administration. The specific legislation is entitled "Safety and Health Improvement and Regulatory Reform Act of 1995".
I heard on the news this morning that congress will be setting aside time regularly to deregulate some of the unnecessary legislation that has been put upon the people in the past. I must address one issue that affects us here at the Benton County Sunshine School, in regard to the above referenced legislation.
Currently, OSHA requires agencies that serve folks with disabilities to follow specific OSHA regulations in regard to bloodborne pathogens. I do understand the importance of this legislation, but the government has gone too far in it's regulations to enforce the act. We have a preschool center and we also provide other community services to children with disabilities. Specific disabilities include Down Syndrome, Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy and Autism. To be in complete compliance with this law, we must have appropriate chemicals to clean, we must have gowns, face masks, goggles, disposable sharp containers, a plan to dispose of bloody items that must be disposed of properly and approved. Every employee has to be offered a "Hepatitis B" shot which is paid by the agency. The series retails for $300.00. We are spending thousands of dollars annually to meet this compliance. In addition, the time to ensure compliance is more than staff can manage. For non-compliance we could be fined up to $25,000.00 per day! This would wipe our agency out of existence.
We are trying to provide an integrated preschool - meaning we have our preschool population of 3-5 year olds integrated with non-disabled children. We are trying to provide a normal atmosphere for our disabled in all components of service. It is not normal to be in the mall with one of our individuals and our staff dressed in sterile clothing to help them with their eating, drinking, or toileting.
We do practice "Universal Precautions" to prevent the spread of disease. This alone is enough to protect everyone concerned. This congressional requirement is absolutely ridiculous. As a non-profit organization every dime we generate has to be stretched to the maximum. If you could eliminate the control and restraints put on us by this current legislation, we could get back to the reason we founded this organization over 30 years ago - helping people!
Your attention to this matter would help millions of lives. Thank you for your time.