In response to the current Ebola outbreak, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an Ebola webpage and a fact sheet on cleaning and decontaminating surfaces. Although Ebola does not currently pose a threat to most American workers, OSHA is providing resources to minimize the chances of an outbreak in the United States, particularly for workers with an elevated risk.
OSHA identifies workers who perform tasks involving close contact with symptomatic individuals or environments contaminated or reasonably likely to be contaminated with infectious body fluids as at risk for exposure to Ebola. Workers in the healthcare, mortuary and death care, airline, and other travel service industries are some of the most at risk workers. OSHA identified some of the pertinent standards applicable when the Ebola virus may be present as the personal protective equipment, bloodborne pathogens, and hazard communication standards.
OSHA also provides more industry-specific guidance for the control and prevention of Ebola for healthcare workers, airline and other travel industry personnel, mortuary and death care workers, laboratory workers, border, customs, and quarantine workers, emergency responders, and workers in critical sectors.
OSHA also released a fact sheet for workers and employers in non-healthcare and non-laboratory settings on how to clean and decontaminate Ebola on surfaces. Workers charged with cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated with the Ebola virus must be protected from exposure to the virus. These workers must also be protected from exposure to harmful levels of chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection.
Workers should promptly and safely clean, disinfect, and isolate any areas suspected of being contaminated with the Ebola virus. All contaminated materials and personal protective equipment used during the cleanup should be soaked in disinfectant and placed in a leak-proof container before being properly disposed of.
Employers may also refer to OSHA’s recent fact sheet on controlling pandemics generally for more guidance.
Red-on-line EHS Legal Counsel