- 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.
July 8, 2005
[Name & Address Withheld]
Dear [Name Withheld]:
This is in response to your April 10, 2005, letters addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor. Both letters were transferred to our Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for a response. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of only the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your letters requested assistance in addressing health and safety hazards in the embalming/funeral home industry. You specifically were concerned about OSHA requirements for formaldehyde exposures within the industry, as well as the potential for employee exposures to ergonomic hazards. These two issues will be addressed separately in this letter.
OSHA's standard for occupational exposure to formaldehyde, 29 CFR 1910.1048, applies to formaldehyde exposures employees receive due to embalming conducted by funeral homes, as well as to all other occupational exposures to formaldehyde. This regulation requires the employer to provide engineering controls to reduce and maintain employee exposures to formaldehyde to below the permissible exposure limit of 0.75 parts per million (ppm) as an 8-hour time weighted average exposure. In addition, the rule requires the employer to ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of formaldehyde exceeding 2ppm as a 15-minute short-term exposure limit (STEL). The standard also obligates the employer to monitor employee exposures and provide adequate personal protective equipment to assist in the protection of employees from formaldehyde exposures during work operations. In addition, employers must provide employee information and training regarding the potential hazards associated with formaldehyde exposures. A copy of this OSHA regulation is enclosed.
The science of studying the movement of the human body at work is referred to as ergonomics. Employees who are required to regularly lift heavy objects without mechanical assistance may be exposed to ergonomic hazards that could result in injury. OSHA has published ergonomic guidelines for specific industries (retail grocery, poultry processing and nursing homes). These documents provide employers and employees with guidance on evaluation and control of ergonomic hazards (to include lifting heavy objects) in their specific industry.
OSHA addresses workplace ergonomic hazards by providing assistance and information to employers and employees regarding the ergonomic hazards and then applying the "General Duty" portion of the OSH Act in enforcement activities, if necessary. The majority of OSHA's available ergonomic information can be found on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. Included in this response to you are selected pages from OSHA's website concerning references and links to other electronic information about general principles of ergonomics and other associated issues.
Your correspondence suggested that the embalming/funeral home industry is not inspected by OSHA. Workplace inspections are conducted at establishments based on employee complaints and upon agency enforcement programs that target high-hazard industries. For further information regarding health and safety enforcement matters in your geographic area, you may contact OSHA's Baton Rouge Area Office at the following address:
9100 Bluebonnet Center Blvd., Suite 201
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
Phone: (225) 298-5458
Fax: (225) 298-5457
One of your letters makes reference to potential violations of other labor regulations related to pay and work hours. OSHA has no jurisdiction over these matters. For further information regarding these issues you can contact the Department of Labor, Office of Wage and Hour Investigation (also in Baton Rouge), at (225) 757-7737.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs