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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 15, 1999

Ms. Gail Stout
Virgo Publishing
3300 N. Central Ave., Suite 2500
Phoenix, AZ 85012

Dear Ms. Stout,

Thank you for your letter of May 28, 1999 to John Miles, former Director of the [Directorate of Enforcement Programs]. You requested a written reply regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) current position on disinfectant products which are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and registered for both HIV and HBV.

OSHA's National Office sent a memorandum to its field offices on November 1, 1996 regarding inquiries from companies who manufactured and/or supplied product(s) approved by the EPA as effective against HBV and HIV. They inquired if the new EPA registered products with the new EPA label would be an "appropriate disinfectant" under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030. This memo stated the products could be used under limited conditions, specifically where HIV and HBV were the only pathogens of concern (for example, in a research setting). Mr. Bach referred to this memorandum in his article, "Disinfection Efficacy Against Micobacterium tuberculosis and the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard", in the April 1999 issue of your Infection Control Today magazine. Unfortunately, this memorandum was superseded in 1997 and no longer reflects OSHA's current policy on the use of disinfectants with an EPA-approval against HBV/HIV.

OSHA reconsidered the limitations in the memorandum of November 1, 1996 and issued a revision on
February 28, 1997. We decided that the policy requiring the use of EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectants and\or a diluted bleach solution to decontaminate contaminated work surfaces should be expanded to include EPA-registered disinfectants that are effective against both HIV and HBV. OSHA's current policy is that EPA-registered disinfectants for HIV and HBV meet the requirement in the bloodborne pathogen standard and are "appropriate" disinfectants to clean contaminated surfaces, provided such surfaces have not become contaminated with agent(s), volumes, or concentrations of agent(s) for which higher level disinfection is recommended.

The memorandum concluded, "As is true with all disinfectant products, the effectiveness is governed by strict adherence to the instructions on the label. For example, the EPA-approved label on one of these products has a section titled "Special Instructions For Cleaning And Decontamination Against HIV-1 And HBV Of Surfaces\Objects Soiled With Blood\Body Fluids." These instructions required:

  1. personal protection devices for the worker performing the task;
  2. that all the blood must be cleaned thoroughly before applying the disinfectant;
  3. that the disposal of the infectious waste is in accordance with federal, state, or local regulations; and
  4. that the surface is left wet with the disinfectant for 30 seconds for HIV-1 and 10 minutes for HBV.

OSHA is currently updating the compliance directive for bloodborne pathogens; it should be available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov within the next few months. This subject as well as other enforcement policies on compliance with the bloodborne pathogen standard will be addressed.

Thank you for you interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking and apologize for any confusion the earlier documents may have caused. As this letter demonstrates, OSHA's re-examination of an issue may result in the clarification, amplification of correction of previously stated enforcement guidance. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at
http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].



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

[Corrected 2/10/2005]