- 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.
September 13, 2005
Mr. Kevin L. Montgomery, Sr. #222838
Men's State Prison
P.O. Box 396
Hardwick, GA 31034
Dear Mr. Montgomery:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was transferred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for a response. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your letter requested information on workplace exposure to Hepatitis C (HCV), which you are concerned you may have contracted while working in various positions in a waste water treatment facility located at Rogers State Prison. Specifically, you expressed concerns regarding possible immunization, as well as the type of safety precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be offered to workers in a waste water treatment facility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines HCV as "a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), which is found in the blood of persons who have this disease."1 HCV is spread by contact with the blood of someone who is infected with the virus. There is no vaccine for prevention of HCV. According to the CDC, it is possible to test positive for HCV within 1 to 2 weeks after being infected.2 OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, provides the requirements for employers having employees with occupational exposure to blood and/or other potentially infectious material (OPIM). These requirements are set in place to prevent worker exposure to infectious bloodborne agents like HCV. While recognizing that contact with raw sewage and waste water pose a number of health hazards, OSHA does not generally consider the contact with diluted raw sewage or waste water (e.g., not originating directly from a health care facility or other source of bulk blood or OPIM) to be related to bloodborne pathogens. Nevertheless, all employers are responsible for determining which, if any, employees have occupational exposure and are covered under the standard.
Based on an evaluation of the workplace, employers must institute measures to prevent exposure to recognized hazards, including the selection of appropriate PPE. Generally, rubber gloves, aprons, boots, and face masks may be necessary to prevent contact with waste water. Employers must determine what tasks require these and/or other PPE. You mentioned in your letter that, in addition to working in the waste water treatment area, you also worked as a laboratory assistant. It is unclear from your letter what work you performed in the lab or whether the tasks you were assigned could have placed you at risk for exposure to blood or OPIM. The potential for exposure to blood or OPIM depends not only on the type of laboratory, but also on the specific tasks you were assigned in the lab. The determination as to what type of gloves or other PPE should be offered will also be dependent upon the type of work and type of exposure expected (i.e., the potential for contact with chemical, physical, and/or biological agents).
The CDC has published information on HCV including the Guidelines on the Prevention and Control of Infections with Hepatitis Viruses in Correctional Settings. We have included copies of two CDC documents that provide overall explanation of the disease, risk factors for infection, and recommended treatment for infected persons: "Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis C"; and a "Viral Hepatitis C Fact Sheet." You may access several other helpful documents at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/c/index.htm.
Please be aware that OSHA does not have jurisdiction over state or municipal employees. As an inmate of a state prison, you are outside of OSHA's jurisdiction. As such, you should address any future concerns regarding health and safety enforcement to:
Medical Director, Commissioner
Georgia Department of Corrections - Health Services
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
Suite 952, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
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 at www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Program
Endnote (1), (2): "Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis C"; CDC Publication [ back to text ]