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.

March 5, 1999

Mr. Merlyn C. Bartlett
Employee Relations Consultant
Columbus Regional Hospital
2400 East 17th Street
Columbus, IN 47201

Dear Mr. Bartlett:

We received your letter dated December 8, 1998, addressed to Mr. Richard Fairfax, Director, Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's), Directorate of Compliance Programs, regarding coverage under OSHA for volunteers and students working in a hospital or other healthcare setting. Thank you for your inquiry regarding our position on this matter. Your question is outlined below, followed by OSHA's response.

Question: On December 16, 1992 your department issued a SIC letter concerning occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens relating to nurse assistant students. In that letter, then director Roger Clark indicated that "Federal OSHA policy has not previously extended coverage to volunteers because they were not considered to be employees." The letter further indicated that this position "is under review due to recent court decisions." Has there been any change in OSHA's position on this matter? Specifically, I am interested in knowing whether high school or college students... who engage in job shadowing experiences with healthcare workers... are exempt from coverage.

Response: The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 extends only to employees of an organization. Students volunteering and/or learning in a state or regional hospital or other healthcare institution are not covered by OSHA regulations. High school, college, or professional nursing students are also not considered employees of the hospital. As you indicated, "job-shadowing" involves no payment of wage or salary to the student. OSHA coverage includes all employers and their employees either directly by federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. This continues to be OSHA's position, as is indicated in the December 1992 letter to which you refer.

It is advisable to check with your local, municipal, and state authorities to learn of the provisions that may cover the students or volunteers in a healthcare setting.

You should be aware that Indiana operates their own Occupational Safety and Health state plan state program. Your state plan keeps pace with federal standards in safety and health. Further inquiries regarding this or any other workplace health and safety matter should be addressed to your state office for assistance.

402 West Washington Street, Room W195
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Telephone: (317) 232-2655
Fax: (317) 233-3790
TT / Voice: 1-800-743-3333
http://www.state.in.us/labor/ ]

Thank you for your interest in safety and health, we hope this information is useful to you, and if you need further assistance regarding this matter, you may call OSHA's [Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 12/3/2004]