- 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.
August 7, 2007
Mr. Allen Cooper
5614 Dalloff Road
Cleveland, OH 44127
Dear Mr. Cooper:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was forwarded to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for a response. You requested information regarding OSHA's interpretation of regulated waste as it relates to raw sewage. Your question has been paraphrased for clarification followed by OSHA's response. This constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.
Question: It appears that OSHA does not regard raw sewage as regulated waste. How does an employer determine the presence of blood in the mixture that comprises raw sewage (i.e., urine, feces, and other waste products)?
Reply: You are correct in stating that OSHA generally does not consider raw sewage to meet the definition of "regulated waste." Regulated waste is defined in OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, as "liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials." While recognizing that contact with wastewater and raw sewage poses a number of health hazards, OSHA does not generally consider contact with diluted raw sewage not originating directly from a health care facility or other source of bulk blood or OPIM to be covered by the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Urine, feces, and other reasonably anticipated biological components comprising human wastes in sewage are not included in the standard's definition of "other potentially infectious materials" unless ". . . visibly contaminated with blood . . ." [29 CFR 1910.1030(b)]. Nevertheless, all employers are responsible for determining which, if any, of their employees have occupational exposure and are covered under the standard.
We note that employers are required to evaluate their workplaces and, based on the evaluation, institute measures to prevent exposure to recognized hazards. Exposure to raw sewage poses a number of health hazards since raw sewage is associated with a wide range of infectious agents.
While an employee's exposure to pathogens which are commonly associated with raw sewage does not generally fall under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, employers must, nonetheless, provide adequate measures to protect employees who may be exposed to potentially hazardous agents, including infectious materials. One such OSHA standard which addresses some of the types of protections would be 29 CFR 1910.132, Personal Protective Equipment. For your information, we are enclosing a copy of the OSHA booklet, "Personal Protective Equipment" (OSHA Publication No. 3151); we hope you find this helpful.
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 http://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
Directorate of Enforcement Programs