- 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.
December 7, 2010
Ms. Shona Morin
Global Pathogen Solutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 400
Camas, Washington 98607
Dear Ms. Morin:
Thank you for your June 16, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for an answer to your question regarding OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, and the prevention of needlestick injuries caused by the improper removal of Taser darts. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within your original correspondence. You also provided information on a device manufactured by your company for safe removal of Taser darts. Your questions have been paraphrased below, followed by our replies:
Question: What are an employer's obligations under the bloodborne pathogens standard with respect to the removal of Taser darts from persons who have been shot by stun guns?
Reply: The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires that immediately or as soon as possible after use, contaminated sharps intended to be reused for other purposes shall be placed in appropriate containers until properly reprocessed [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(viii)]. These containers must also comply with the requirements of §1910.1030(d)(2)(viii)(A) through (D). In addition, it goes on to provide at §1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(E), that contaminated sharps shall not be stored or processed in a manner that requires employees to reach by hand into the containers where these sharps have been placed.
The safe removal of deployed Taser darts from a stunned person may require specific protocols for their removal and for disposal or further processing. Therefore, the removal may be accomplished through the use of a mechanical device or a one-handed technique, which protects the individual from contacting the contaminated dart [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii)(A) and (B)]. From a review of your company's website, it appears that your company's dart acquiring and removal tool could be one method of isolating an individual from contacting the deployed darts during their removal and storage. Please be advised, however, that OSHA does not endorse or approve of specific commercial products or safety and health equipment.
Question: Is there an audit process for employers whose employees remove stun gun darts to ensure compliance with the bloodborne pathogens standard?
Reply: The standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030(c)(1)(iv) requires employers to review and update their Exposure Control Plans at least annually and whenever necessary to reflect new or modified tasks and procedures which affect occupational exposure and to reflect new or revised employee positions with occupational exposure. The review and update of such plans shall also:
- Reflect changes in technology that eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens [§1910.1030(c)(1)(iv)(A)];1910.1030(c)(1)(iv)(A)]; and
- Document annually consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure [§1910.1030(c)(1)(iv)(B)].
You should also be aware that Federal OSHA does not cover employees of state and local governments, such as police departments, 29 USC 652(5). However, 27 states, including Washington, administer their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health programs, or state plans. All state plans are required to cover public-sector (state and local government) employees, 29 USC 667(c)(6), and 22 also cover the private sector. These state plans must adopt and enforce standards which are at least as effective as those promulgated by Federal OSHA. 29 USC 667(c)(2).
Although most state plans have adopted bloodborne pathogens standards that are identical to the federal standard, some may have different requirements. See the State Programs section of OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov. for information about each State Plan agency. There is a link to each State Plan agency's website, which provides information on its standards. Washington State's bloodborne pathogens standard is basically the same as the federal standard in all respects relevant to your issue, but the wording is slightly different. Also, in all the States throughout the country there are state consultation programs, which provide free on-site consultation. Click on On-site Consultation (Free) on the left-hand side of the OSHA website's home page. However, these programs do not provide services to state and local governments in States without State Plans.
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 continue to consult OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs