OSHA Field Safety and Health Management System (SHMS) Manual


  1. Purpose

    The effective and safe decontamination of personnel and equipment following entry into contaminated environments is necessary and required to prevent continued exposures to hazardous material.

  2. Scope

    This program applies to all occupational situations involving contamination of OSHA employees, their equipment and vehicles.

  3. Definitions
    1. Contamination. The presence of a hazardous substance that is capable of causing serious physical harm or death.

    2. Decontamination. The removal and disposal of a hazardous substance from personnel, equipment and vehicle.

    3. Incident. An incident is defined as exposure occurrence.

    4. Occupational Disease or Illness. Occupational Disease or Illness is defined as acute/chronic serious physical harm produced by exposure related to the work environment.

    5. Recordable Case. As defined in 29 CFR 1904.7(a).

  4. Responsibilities
    1. Responsible OSHA Manager will:

      1. Ensure availability of appropriate decontamination equipment through purchase, or rental agreement.

      2. Ensure the use of proper decontamination methods for personnel, equipment and vehicles.

      3. Ensure employees are trained on the recognition of workplace contaminant hazards, decontamination and disposal procedures.

      4. Ensure completion of a post-evaluation of the decontamination and disposal procedures. Document all findings and recommendations using an Incident Investigation and Hazard Reporting Worksheet. (Chapter 2, Appendix B)

    2. Employee will:

      1. Recognize and identify those workplace hazardous conditions that may result in contamination, decontamination and disposal.

      2. Perform decontamination and disposal procedures.

      3. Notify the responsible OSHA manager to obtain appropriate medical follow up to determine whether any medical condition or adverse health effect has occurred from a contamination incident.

      4. Document all findings and recommendations using an Incident Investigation and Hazard Reporting Worksheet. (Chapter 2, Appendix B)

    3. Assistant Regional Administrator for Administrative Programs or equivalent will:

      1. Provide assistance to Area and District Offices to facilitate the procuring of necessary decontamination and disposal supplies.

      2. Coordinate and communicate logistics with the Regional and National Office.

    4. Assistant Regional Administrator for Enforcement Programs or equivalent unit will:

      1. Convey appropriate guidance about the rapid availability of soap and water shower decontamination and other decontamination methods as identified in advance of an event by the Regional Response Team.

      2. Convey guidance from the Health Response Team or other reliable source regarding appropriate decontamination with disposal procedures for equipment and vehicle.

      3. Communicate information to the National Office as necessary.

      4. Assist in the SOL review and approval of any legal document.

  5. Training
    1. Employee will:

      1. Employees shall be made aware that certain environments present a risk of contamination. Examples include asbestos, silica, heavy metals, coke oven batteries, smelter operations, hazardous waste sites and disabling illness/injury or fatality worksites.

      2. Employees shall be familiar with the decontamination procedures contained within the OSHA Technical Manual, and those listed in specific OSHA regulations (e.g. Bloodborne Pathogens, expanded health standards). Periodic retraining shall be given as needed, but no longer than every two years.

      3. When disposal of items is required, employees shall be made aware of disposal procedures following decontamination. The Office will consult with local disposal authorities for any applicable disposal procedures.

  6. Procedures
    1. General Procedures

      1. To the extent possible, exposure to hazardous substances should be kept at a minimum.

      2. Professional judgment must be exercised in all situations, e.g. OSHA employees should refrain from walking through areas of obvious contamination.

      3. Use of remote sampling techniques shall be used where feasible.

      4. If exposure monitoring equipment cannot be decontaminated on site, it will be bagged. Disposable PPE and equipment will be used where appropriate.

    2. Pre-Inspection

      1. Employees shall evaluate and identify the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and safe work practice.

      2. If PPE and safe work practice do not provide adequate protection.

        1. The employee and the responsible OSHA manager will discuss the safe work procedure to be followed to minimize the contamination.

        2. If concerns are unresolved, the Assistant Regional Administrator for Enforcement Programs or equivalent unit shall be consulted.

      3. A site specific decontamination plan shall be established and documented.

      4. Employees will not enter areas of potential contamination without determining PPE and work practices necessary to prevent exposure.

    3. On-Site Inspection

      1. Anticipated Exposures

        1. Where the employer has established decontamination procedures in compliance with OSHA regulations, the OSHA representative will follow the site procedures.

        2. Where the employer has not established site decontamination procedures or procedures are not in compliance with OSHA regulations, the site specific decontamination plan will be followed.

      2. Unanticipated Exposures

        1. The exposed employee will immediately remove themselves from the contamination area.

        2. An evaluation will be performed to identify the contamination hazard.

        3. The exposed employee will contact their responsible OSHA manager for assistance to determine methods of decontamination. If decontamination is infeasible or methods are not established, contact the responsible OSHA manager.

        4. All exposed employees will contact the responsible OSHA manager for assistance in obtaining appropriate follow-up medical evaluation.

        5. Employees exposed to biologic or radiation hazards, or who experience symptoms of any type from any hazardous exposure, will report immediately to the nearest emergency room or call 911 for emergency transportation to the nearest emergency facility. The employee will contact the responsible OSHA manager, who will contact the Office of Occupational Medicine and Nursing (OOMN) with information about the exposure and the location of the employee. The OOMN Medical Officer will speak with the employee, if possible, and with the treating physician during the emergency visit, and will assist in arranging appropriate follow-up, as necessary.

        6. If no injury or illness occurred, the incident will be documented on the Incident Investigation and Hazard Reporting Worksheet as a near miss.

    4. Post Inspection

      1. An evaluation will be completed by the responsible OSHA manager to determine the steps taken to minimize contamination for all exposures. That evaluation will include a review of the following:

        1. Work practices;

        2. PPE;

        3. Decontamination procedures; and

        4. Disposal procedures.

      2. The evaluation will be documented and appropriate actions will be taken to ensure continued effectiveness of the program.

  7. Decontamination Procedures
    1. Procedures for decontamination will be based on those required by OSHA regulations, including the expanded health standards, 1910.120, and the Regional Emergency Management Plan.

    2. Where no decontamination procedures are required, good industrial hygiene principles and safe work practices shall be followed. Examples include the OSHA Technical Manual, AIHA’s Chemical Protective Clothing publications, and the Center for Disease Control’s website pages on Emergency Preparedness and Response.

    3. Decontamination Plan shall include:

      1. The number and layout of decontamination stations, if necessary.

      2. The decontamination equipment needed.

      3. Appropriate decontamination methods.

      4. Procedures to prevent contamination of clean areas.

      5. Methods and procedures to minimize worker contact with contaminants during removal of personal protective equipment (PPE).

      6. Methods for disposing of clothing and equipment that cannot be completely decontaminated.

      7. Proper disposal of waste generated from a decontamination procedure.

      8. Decontamination procedures shall be monitored by the Area Office to determine their effectiveness. Where determined to be necessary in the decontamination plan, decontaminated articles, clothing or vehicles will be tested to ensure the contaminants have been removed.

  8. Investigation Review

    All incident investigations will be conducted in accordance with Chapter 2 of the OSHA SHMS Directive.

  9. Recordkeeping
    1. Cases of contamination resulting in injuries or illnesses must be recorded on the OSHA 300 per the recordkeeping guidelines.

    2. All contaminations defined as incidents must be investigated and documented on an Incident Investigation and Hazard Reporting worksheet. (Chapter 2, Appendix B)

  1. General

    In any situation, personnel should not needlessly place themselves in a situation where they may have exposure, or their equipment/clothing become contaminated. Avoidance of exposure to persons, clothing or equipment is critical for all compliance personnel, regardless of their designation under the exposure control plan. PPE should not be used as a substitute for the avoidance of exposure to blood or OPIM.

    In emergencies (providing first aid or Good Samaritan acts), or other situations where contact cannot be avoided, appropriate work practice controls, PPE, and other equipment must be used to prevent exposure.

    In cases where contact does occur, preventing the spread of contamination beyond areas of initial contact is of utmost importance and appropriate steps need to be taken to prevent this spread.

    Any known or suspected contact or contamination of persons, clothing, equipment or work areas with blood or another potentially infectious body material (OPIM) must be addressed through decontamination and appropriate follow-up procedures.

  2. Procedures
    1. Decontamination of body surfaces

      1. When their hands or any other skin surface may have come in contact with blood or OPIM, employees shall immediately wash with soap and water.

      2. Antiseptic hand cleansers and towels, or antiseptic towelettes may be used to wash with if access to soap or water is not immediately available. Employees must, however, immediately wash skin surfaces with soap and water as soon as it is available.

      3. Employees must immediately flush their eyes or other mucous membrane surfaces with water when they have come in contact with blood or OPIM.

      4. Employees shall wash their hands (or other appropriate skin surfaces) after removing or handling gloves, PPE or other coverings which were used to protect against contact with blood or OPIM.

      5. If skin contact is suspected, the employee must examine the affected area to determine if an exposure incident may have occurred.

      6. In accordance with the Office Exposure Control Plan, report all exposures and exposure incidents to the responsible OSHA manager as soon as possible and enact appropriate follow-up steps as called for in the Office Exposure Control Plan.

    2. Equipment and Clothing

      1. All PPE and clothing which has had blood/OPIM contact will be removed immediately or as soon as feasible. All PPE will be removed prior to leaving the work area. All disposable PPE will be sealed within a red disposable bag and discarded on-site if possible, or removed for disposition elsewhere by the responsible OSHA manager or the office designee. If the PPE can not be disposed of on-site, the employee will double bag it.

      2. Where clothing has been penetrated through by blood/OPIM, the underlying skin should be considered to have had exposure, and be treated appropriately as described above in 2 (a).

      3. Disposable protective equipment, including gloves, will never be washed or decontaminated for reuse.

      4. Gloves or other PPE shall be worn to prevent exposure when handling or disinfecting contaminated equipment, PPE or clothing.

      5. Employees shall wash their hands, (or other skin surfaces) after removing or handling PPE, or other coverings which were used to protect against contact with blood or OPIM.

      6. vi) Any equipment, sampling pumps and surfaces over which OSHA has control that may be contaminated will be promptly decontaminated by using a solution of bleach containing from 1:10 -1:100 bleach (prepared daily) and/or an appropriate EPA/FDA registered disinfectant.

      7. vii) Any equipment that may be contaminated with blood will be placed in a leak-proof container. Where the equipment may cause puncturing, it will be placed in a puncture-resistant, leak-proof container. If the equipment is disposable, it may be left on-site, if the site will be disposing of other contaminated equipment.

      8. viii) If regulated waste is generated, it will be placed in red bags and put in the appropriate waste containers for disposal in accordance with applicable regulations. For a definition of regulated waste see the Bloodborne Pathogens standard 29 CFR 1910.1030 (b). If waste is not regulated waste, it may be thrown out in the normal trash

    3. Work Surfaces

      Any work surface which has been contaminated by blood/OPIM will be promptly disinfected using a 1:10 – 1:100 solution of bleach (prepared daily) and/or an EPA/FDA registered sterilant.

      1. Gloves or other PPE shall be worn to prevent exposure when handling or disinfecting contaminated areas.

      2. All waste generated during decontamination of work surfaces which is not regulated waste may be thrown out in the normal trash.

      3. Regulated waste will be placed in red bags and put in appropriate waste containers for disposal in accordance with applicable regulations.

      4. Employees shall wash their hands (or other skin surfaces) after removing or handling PPE or other coverings which were used to protect against contact with blood or OPIM.

    4. Laundry

      1. All contaminated articles of clothing that are not disposable will be laundered according to the Office designated laundry service. The responsible OSHA manager will be alerted any time laundering of contaminated clothing needs to be performed. Contaminated clothing will be handled on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with guidelines established by the Office.

      2. The responsible OSHA manager and Bloodborne Pathogens Coordinator are responsible for contacting a laundry facility to ensure that they are able to handle this type of laundry.

      3. Laundering of contaminated clothing/PPE will be performed in accordance with the Office guidelines.

  3. Post-Exposure Protocol
    1. Following occupational exposure, employees will notify their responsible OSHA manager and will then jointly contact the Office of Occupational Medicine and Nursing (OOMN) immediately. If the OOMN Medical Officer, following discussion with the employee, determines that a likely percutaneous, mucous membrane, or nonintact skin exposure has occurred, the employee will report immediately to the nearest emergency medical facility to initiate appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis, which includes assessment of baseline HIV, HBC and HBV status, post-exposure chemoprophylaxis as determined by the physician and employee, hyperimmune globulin and full-series Hepatitis B immunization, as needed, and subsequent medical follow-up with follow-up serologic testing at times and locations convenient to the employee, None of the cost will be borne by the employee.

    2. Hepatitis B vaccinations will be made available at no cost to OSHA employees, at a reasonable time and place.

    3. Post-exposure follow-up will be conducted for any employee who suffers an exposure incident while performing duties on the job at OSHA.

      1. Report to the responsible OSHA manager as soon as possible following an exposure incident to enact the Office procedures for post-exposure follow-up.

      2. If the responsible OSHA manager is unavailable, seek medical treatment following an exposure incident, and enact appropriate provisions of the Office post-exposure follow-up procedures. Make contact with the responsible OSHA manager as soon as possible.

  1. General:

    Employees may be required to enter environments containing heavy metals and particulates during their regular course of duty. This document is designed to provide guidance as to the proper decontamination of personnel, clothing and equipment if toxic metals or particulates are encountered or are known to be present.

  2. Definitions:
    Decontamination The removal and disposal of a hazardous substance from personnel, equipment and vehicles
    Clothing Shall apply to any street or work attire worn by OSHA employees on the job site including boots, hats, coveralls, and PPE
    Equipment Shall mean any tools or items needed in the performance of the OSHA employee’s job duties
    Toxic Metals Toxic metals, including “heavy metals,” are individual metals and metal compounds that negatively affect people’s health. Examples include, but are not limited to, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, and mercury.
    Particulate Tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas - They range in size from less than 10 nanometers to more than 100 micrometers in diameter. Examples include, but are not limited to, asbestos and dust.
  3. Procedures:
    1. If the site has adequate decontamination facilities, inquire as to the use of those facilities by the OSHA employee.

      1. If the site has adequate decontamination facilities, the OSHA employee should make arrangements with the employer to utilize those facilities.

    2. If the site does not have adequate decontamination facilities, the OSHA employee should follow these procedures.

      1. All equipment and outer personal protective equipment should have gross contamination removed by physical means involving dislodging/displacement, rinsing, vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum or wiping off.

      2. Bag all contaminated equipment and clothing in plastic bags.

      3. Use disposable cleansing towels to clean hands, face, and all exposed skin surfaces.

    3. OSHA employee shall not use compressed air and/or heat shall not be used to remove contamination.

    4. OSHA employees routinely conduct lead inspections in general industry and on construction work sites. Often times, there are inadequate facilities available to the OSHA employee at the work site for proper removal of lead and other heavy metals from skin and surfaces (e.g. sampling equipment), resulting in the potential for OSHA employee exposure by the ingestion route and cross-contamination in government vehicles, Area Offices and homes. To address this potential hazard, the Office shall put together a decontamination kit that OSHA employees can take with them in the field. The kit includes the following.






      skin, equip. decontamination

      (12 cans, 48 towels)


      skin, equip. decontamination verification

      2 @ 29.95

      Moisturizing Shower
      Gel ®

      skin, hair



      hand protection

      2 @ 9.27/BX100

      Zip lock Bags (8" x 10")


      2 @ 1.50/PK 25

      *Zip lock Bags (XL)

      storage (clothing)

      12 @ 3.00 ea. (est.)

      *Water Spray Bottles

      misc. cleaning

      2 @ 3.00 ea. (est.)

      Paper Towels

      misc. cleaning

      2 @ 1.00 ea.(est.)

      Carry Case


      2 @ 25.00 ea.(est.)

      Total cost per kit: $120.00 (est)

      *Items need to be purchased at retail store.

  1. General

    In the course of work activity, OSHA employees may be subject to contamination by biological agents. Although exposure to many of these biological agents is unlikely and generally unanticipated, care should be taken to identify the wide variety of potential exposures that may be experienced. Unfortunately, a wide spectrum of biological contaminants exists, most of which are outside the hazards normally anticipated with compliance activities, but may be encountered in sites such as health care facilities and research labs. As listed on OSHA’s Biological Agents – Safety and Health Topics, these can include such diverse hazards as:

    Avian Flu
    Foodborne Disease
    Legionnaires Disease
    Mold and Fungi
    Viral Hemorrhagic Fever
    Q Fever

    This wide spectrum of biological agents poses several potential problems to OSHA employees, particularly because they represent:

    • Significantly different risks and symptoms,

    • Inhalation ingestion and dermal routes of potential contamination, and

    • Hazards that may not be anticipated until engaged in on-site activity.

    Hazard Assessment: Of primary importance is early identification of the potential for exposure. Any indication that biological agents may be encountered during inspection activities must be taken seriously and research should be conducted on the specific agents, routes of transmission and symptoms of exposure. For example, a hazard bulletin in 1998 highlighted the potential for exposure to Legionnaire’s disease in the plastic injection molding industry. Requirement for negative pressure isolation rooms may be the subject of health care facilities with active cases of Tuberculosis. General infection control procedures may be the subject at a hospital or other health care facilities. Contact with surfaces contaminated with mold may transmit mold spores to equipment and ultimately to other (damp) surfaces that may promote their growth. Contact with contaminated water, sewage or decaying animal remains may expose an OSHA employee to a wide variety of bacteria and viruses.

  2. Procedures:
    1. Pre-Inspection

      If a biological agent is referenced in the complaint / referral, or there is any indication the inspection activity may involve biological agents, the responsible OSHA manager should be notified and research on the specific agents(s) conducted before initiating the inspection.

    2. Inspection Activities

      In health care settings, appropriate infection control procedures, such as a negative pressure isolation room for TB control, should be evaluated as soon as possible and without exposure to areas currently holding patients with active cases of contagious disease.

      When feasible, contact with surfaces and liquids (waste water) with the potential of contamination with biological agents will be avoided.

      When contact with potentially contaminated surfaces is necessary for collection of samples or inspection related activities, appropriate PPE, including rubber gloves, will be worn, decontaminated or discarded.

    3. Post Inspection

      If exposure to a biological agent is suspected, it shall be reported to the responsible OSHA manager who will refer for to a health professional for appropriate medical treatment.

    4. Decontamination

      Unless research has identified specific decontamination procedure guidelines, OSHA “General Decontamination” – Quick Card should be followed for potential skin, clothing, equipment and surface decontamination. These guidelines include a qualitative assessment of the level of contamination and the use of solutions containing from ¼ to 1 ½ cups of bleach per gallon of water (prepared daily) and/or an EPA/FDA registered sterilant.


General Decontamination

Floodwaters may be contaminated with sewage and decaying animal and human remains. Disinfection of hands, clothing, tools/equipment, and surfaces in work areas is critical in disease prevention.

Hand Decontamination

  • Wash hands completely with soap and water.
  • Rinse completely; dry with a clean towel or air dry.

Clothing, Tool/Equipment Decontamination

  • It is preferable to use soap and clean water when available.
  • If only contaminated water is available, mix 1/4 cup bleach per gallon of water.
  • Immerse objects in solution for 10 minutes; if clothing, gently agitate periodically.
  • Transfer objects to hand wash solution for 10 minutes; if clothing, gently agitate periodically.
  • Allow clothes and tools/equipment to thoroughly air dry before re-use.

Severe Surface Decontamination

  • Use for decontaminating only the most seriously affected surfaces.
  • Mix 1 and 1/2 cups bleach per gallon of water.
  • Douse surfaces with heavy contamination and allow to sit for 3 minutes.
  • Wipe the contamination from the surface with a paper towel and douse the surface again but use the hand wash solution.
  • Wipe off residual contamination with a paper towel.

Important Considerations

  • Use gloves and eye protection.
  • Prepare bleach solutions daily and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes before use.
  • All containers should be labeled "Bleach-disinfected water, DO NOT DRINK."
    CAUTION: Do not mix bleach with products containing ammonia.
  • Do not immerse electrical or battery operated tools/equipment in solutions; clean exterior with a soft cloth dampened with soap and water or disinfectant solution.
  • Follow electrical or battery operated equipment manufacturer's instructions for cleaning. It may be necessary to remove equipment from service for decontamination.