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.

July 7, 1999

Alfred K. Whitehead
General President
International Association of Fire Fighters
1750 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006-5395

Dear Mr. Whitehead:

Thank you for your April 14, 1999 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We apologize for our delay in responding to your important questions. We hope that this letter will serve as a useful resource in addressing the concerns of your affiliates regarding the employer's obligation in the Hepatitis B vaccination process.

The issue regarding employee vaccinations for bloodborne pathogens is clearly documented in 29 CFR 1910.1030, Bloodborne Pathogens, and its current directive, OSHA Instruction [CPL 2-2.69, Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens]. Your questions are outlined below, followed by OSHA's interpretation.

1. Must the employer either provide or pay for transportation to and from the site where the Hepatitis B vaccination will be administered?

According to the standard, "the employer shall ensure that all medical evaluations and procedures including the hepatitis B vaccine and vaccination series and post-exposure evaluation and follow-up, including prophylaxis, are: (A) Made available at no cost to the employee; (B) Made available to the employee at a reasonable time and place." Employees may incur "no out of pocket expense" for the vaccine and vaccination series. While transportation may not need to be provided by the employer, its cost must be covered by the employer.

2. Are all activities associated with obtaining a Hepatitis B vaccination, in fact, work functions and, consequently, is all time associated with receipt of the vaccination work time?

The current directive specifically states in Section (f)(1)(ii)(B) that, "The term 'reasonable time and place' requires the medical procedures and evaluations to be convenient to the employee. They shall be offered during normally scheduled work hours. If participation requires travel away from the worksite, the employer must bear the cost." Plainly, this would mean that when receiving the vaccine or commuting to have it administered, employees must be considered "on-duty."

You mention that this issue of compliance is being debated between your affiliates in New York State. We must inform you that since New York is an OSHA state plan state, this is something that needs to be resolved within the jurisdiction of that state plan. The state plan covers state and local employees and must institute and enforce employee safety standards that are at least as effective as those at the national level. If you have not already done so, you may reach the New York State Plan at:

New York Department of Labor
John E. Sweeney, Commissioner
W. Averell Harriman State Office
Building 12, Room 500
Albany, NY 12240
(518) 457-2741

Thank you for your interest in employee safety and health. We hope that you find this information useful. Please be aware that both the current standard and its directive are available for your perusal on the world wide web at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact OSHA's [Office of Health Enforcement] at (202) 693-2190.


Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Compliance Programs

[Corrected 10/29/02]