- 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 15, 2020
Mr. Kent Berg, CEOP, ACBTI
National Institute of Decontamination Specialists
3504 Highway 152 PMB 319
Greenville, SC 29611
Dear Mr. Berg:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. You requested clarification on a previous letter of interpretation of September 6, 2019, to another company regarding the applicability of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, 29 CFR § 1910.1030, and the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Reponse (HAZWOPER) standard, 29 CFR § 1910.120, to cleanup operations of blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) in homes and businesses, particularly crime and trauma scene cleanup.1 This letter constitues OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your oroginal correspondence. Your question is paraphrased below, followed by OSHA's response.
Question: What is the applicability of the HAZWOPER standard to employees engaged in the cleanup of blood and OPIM in homes and businesses?
Response: As explained in the September 6, 2019, letter, to which you refer in your inquiry,
Where a biohazard remediation company does not perform emergency response and post-emergency response clean-up operations covered by OSHA's HAZWOPER standard, but provides clean-up services to homeowners, business owners, or other entities when neither the site owner nor a government authority has declared an emergency, or when all emergency and post-emergency response workers have cleared the site of a declared emergency, then the remediation employer would need to comply with only those OSHA standards that apply to its operations, such as those mentioned the previous paragraph [emphasis added].2
To further clarify, the September 6, 2019, letter provides a response to a specific employer who indicated that their employees may engage in cleanup operations of transportation and industrial accidents where there is an uncontrolled release of infectious material. The letter also states that, "...biohazard remediation workers who respond to a declared emergency [emphasis added] for the release of a hazardous substance at a particular site must be trained in accordance with the HAZWOPER standard at 29 CFR § 1910.120(q)(6). Additionally, workers who perform post-emergency response clean-up after the emergency is declared over must be trained in accordance with the HAZWOPER standard at 29 CFR § 1910.120(q)(11)." Furthermore, clean-up workers/contractors arriving at some point after the post-emergency workers have left the site, to perform additional clean-up or deep cleaning, repairs, and/or demolition of property, which may still involve exposure to blood and other hazards, do not fall under the HAZWOPER standard. OSHA provides guidance to assist employers in determining emergency response activities that are covered by the HAZWOPER standard here: www.osha.gov/emergency-preparedness/hazardous-waste-operations/background.
Situations requiring compliance with both the Bloodborne Pathogens and HAZWOPER standards are further explained in the Bloodborne Pathogens standard's preamble, which states as follows:
The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard (29 CFR § 1910.120) covers three groups of employees: workers at uncontrolled hazardous waste remediation sites; workers at Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities; and those workers expected to respond to emergencies caused by the uncontrolled release of hazardous substances.
The definition of hazardous substance includes any biological agent or infectious material which may cause disease or death. There are three potential scenarios where the bloodborne and hazardous waste operations and emergency response standard may interface. These scenarios include: workers involved in cleanup operations at hazardous waste sites involving regulated waste; workers at RCRA permitted incinerators that burn infectious waste; and workers responding to an emergency caused by the uncontrolled release of regulated waste (e.g., transportation accident).
Employers of employees engaged in these three activities must comply with the requirments in 29 CFR § 1910.120 as well as the Bloodborne Pathogens standard. If there is a conflict or overlap, the provision that is more protective of employee health and safety applies.3
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking and apologize for any confusion the earlier document may have caused. As this letter demonstrates, OSHA's re-examination of an issue may result in the clarification or correction of previously stated enforcement guidance. OSHA requirements are set by statue, 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 consitutes 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, consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 692-2190.
Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 See OSHA letter to Scott Vogel, September 6, 2019, available at: www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2019-09-06-1. [Back to Text]
2 These include, but are not limited to, 29 CFR § 1910.132, Personal Protective Equipment, 29 CFR § 1910.1200, Hazard Communication; 29 CFR § 1910.134, Respiratory Protection; and 29 CFR § 1910.1030, Bloodborne Pathogens. [Back to Text]
3 56 Federal Register at 64004 (Dec. 6, 1991). [Back to Text]