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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.
October 23, 2015
Jackie Transue, President
Golden Group International, Ltd.
305 Quaker Road
Patterson, New York 12563
Dear Ms. Transue:
Thank you for your July 8, 2015, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. You requested a clarification of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, as it pertains to occupational exposure during the handling and disposal of feminine hygiene and incontinence products. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not specifically delineated within your original correspondence. For clarification, your specific question is paraphrased below, followed by OSHA's response.
Background: You stated that feminine hygiene product manufacturers have switched to less absorbent materials (cotton and rayon) and have removed chemicals that enhance absorbency. You also stated that incontinence products have become slimmer and more discrete, decreasing their absorptive qualities. You further state the reduced absorptive ability for feminine hygiene and incontinence products results in an increase in occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) among environmental services, housekeeping, and maintenance workers.
Question: Will OSHA reconsider its current enforcement policy and now require coverage under the BBP standard for workers who handle wastes which include feminine hygiene products or incontinence products?
Response: OSHA stands by its current policy. As you are aware, OSHA has stated in previous letters that the presence of discarded feminine hygiene products in the workplace does not, under normal circumstances, trigger the BBP standard. The intended function of feminine hygiene products is to absorb and contain blood. The absorbent material of which they are composed would be expected to, under most circumstances, prevent the release of liquid or semi-liquid blood or the flaking off of dried blood.
OSHA has stated that for any workers handling a feminine hygiene product, if there is a reasonable likelihood of employee exposure to blood or OPIM, then the employer is required to comply with the BBP standard with respect to the exposed employees. (OSHA Letter of Interpretation to John Sredniwaski, 10/8/1992, available on OSHA's website).
With respect to incontinence products, the BBP standard applies only to blood or "other potentially infectious materials," which do not include urine and feces, so in the absence of visible blood, this standard does not apply to these bodily materials. [29 CFR 1910.1030(a) and (b); 56 FR 64004, 64100 (December 6, 1991)]
As you may know, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates feminine hygiene products as Class II medical devices. One of the criteria for these devices is absorbency. See, e.g., 21 CFR 884.5460 (scented or scented deodorized menstrual tampons); 21 CFR 884.5470 (unscented menstrual tampons); and Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff-Menstrual Tampons and Pads: Information for Premarket Notification Submissions (510(k)s), issued on July 27, 2005, and available at: http://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/deviceregulationandguidance/guidancedocuments/ucm071781.htm. Your concern regarding the absorbency of these devices should be directed to the FDA.
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 letter of interpretation explains 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.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs