The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has established a set of requirements and standards associated with cleaning up biohazardous waste. These requirements are developed from laws passed by Congress, together with regulations adopted by OSHA itself.
At the heart of the requirements for cleaning up biohazardous waste is the OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard. Based on this standard, OSHA has developed specific protocols for lowering worker risk associated with the cleanup of biohazardous waste itself.
Background of OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard
The OSHA Blood Pathogen Standard initially was promulgated in December 1991. The main impetus of enacting the standard was the agency’s overall response to protecting workers in different fields, particularly the healthcare and biohazardous waste remediation industries, from exposure to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Who Is Covered by the OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard?
Any and all workers who have potential exposure to blood, or other potentially contaminated materials, are covered by the standard. In addition to blood, other potentially contaminated materials covered by the standard include:
- Vaginal Secretions
- Cerebrospinal fluid
- Synovial fluid
- Pleural fluid
- Pericardial fluid
- Peritoneal fluid
- Amniotic fluids
- Any bodily fluids visibly contaminated with blood
- Unfixed human tissue
- Unfixed human organs
OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard Exposure Control Plan
The OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard Exposure Control Plan is a framework to be utilized by a certain business that has workers who will be exposed to blood, bodily fluids, and other biological materials. In other words, individual employers with workers who face this type of exposure need to develop, implement, and monitor their own biohazard exposure control plan.
An underlying component of the OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard Exposure Control Plan is proper training of workers who are expected to come into contact with blood and other bodily fluids. The control plan must also include a specific delineation or delegation of tasks that will be performed by individual workers.
The control plan calls for the utilization of what is known as infection control universal precautions. As part of the utilization of universal precautions, the plan mandates the utilization of appropriate safety gear and equipment when workers are to be involved in the cleanup and remediation of blood, other bodily fluid, and other hazardous biological materials.
Individual state health agencies, including the California Department of Health, generally have adopted the protocols established by OSHA via the federal agency’s Blood Pathogens Standard and associated exposure control plan components.
Universal Precautions and Protective Attire in California
Following the OSHA Blood Pathogens Standard, the state of California has delineated the universal precautions, and associated protective attire, that must be utilized when workers are exposed to blood, other bodily fluids, and other biological materials. This includes workers in the healthcare as well as the biohazard remediation industries.
Essential protective attire mandated by the state of California, following OSHA protocols, includes:
- Disposable gloves
- Protective gowns or uniforms (there is a preference, although no mandatory requirement, that this type of protective gear be disposable)
- Protective eyewear and masks or face shields
OSHA Requirements for Blood Cleanup
OSHA has established specific protocols for blood cleanup. The protocols begin with ensuring that any worker who will be involved in the cleanup of blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially hazardous biological material have proper (and up to date) remediation training. In addition, the blood cleanup protocols mandate that workers assigned to this task must have proper protective gear (as delineated a moment ago).
The other OSHA requirements for blood cleanup include:
- Immediately limit access to the area contaminated by blood, bodily fluids, or potentially hazardous biological materials.
- Cleanup blood, fluids, and materials as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
- Dispose of the collected blood (and other materials) together with the items used to cleanup these biomaterials in a proper biohazard receptacle.
- Sanitize all items that came into contact with blood, fluids, or biological materials.
- If sanitation is impossible, any contaminated items need to be removed and properly disposed of.
- Although not a specific OSHA requirement, deodorization is another step taken when it comes to comprehensive remediation of a traumatic scene or other situation in which blood or other biomaterials are present.
- Properly dispose of all protective gear utilized in the blood cleanup process.
- Safely and properly transport all items designated for disposal to a licensed biological material and hazardous waste disposal provider.
The OSHA requirements for cleaning up biohazardous waste are designed to fulfill the underlying mission of the agency. The mission of OSHA, since its creation, is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” Thus, the agency maintains resources of different types that are designed to ensure that a business with workers exposed to biohazardous waste is able to develop suitable safety protocols.