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OSHA HAZWOPER Letter Of Interpretation

Tuesday, September 24, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Web Master
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In the Biohazard Mitigation Industry, there are many conflicting points of view regarding the
training and certification of those in the industry; therefore, on January 14, 2019, a letter went out to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asking for clarification. Does OSHA require employers to train employees who perform biohazard remediation according to the training requirements in 1910.120 HAZWOPER Standard? (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], 2019)

In researching this question, one Letter of Interpretation regarding the biohazard industry
dated May 22, 2007, can be found. OSHA responded to a letter written by Mr. Dave Middleton in regards to the application of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to contractors where a clean-up of blood is conducted following an accident. OSHA's response was what you would expect. They wrote “Yes, the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard would apply to the cleanup work done by your employees. 29 CFR 1910.1030(b) defines "occupational exposure" as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials [OPIM] that may result from the performance of an employee's duties."(OSHA, 2007)

Looking into OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030)(OSHA, 1970) as amended according to the Needle-stick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000, prescribes safeguards to protect workers against the health hazards caused by bloodborne pathogens. The requirements address items such as exposure control plans, universal precautions, engineering and work practice controls, personal protective equipment, housekeeping, laboratories, Hepatitis B vaccination, post-exposure follow-up, hazard communication and training and record keeping.

The Standard places requirements on employers whose workers can be reasonably anticipated to be in contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), such as unfixed human tissues and certain body fluids. Reading further into the Standard, the lack of information and personal protection for those in the biohazard industry responding to incidents like crime scenes, suicides, unattended deaths and accidents causing the release of pathogens just didn’t seem like enough. Focusing on the history of the Standard, in 1991, OSHA published the 1910.1030 Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This Standard was created and published to protect all healthcare workers approximately six million from the risk of exposure to pathogens, focusing mainly on HIV and Hepatitis B viruses in the healthcare setting. Although the Standard was amended in 2000, it still doesn’t fit our industry nor did it give us a reliable standard or training platform and information to protect those in the industry.

For the last few years, industry leaders started to look into the 1910.120 Hazardous Waste
Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard and started to conclude this was the standard our industry should be following. With so many opinions, negative feedback and disagreements, no true standard requirements could be determined and the major factor was cost.

In recent years, the BioHazard Mitigation field has developed a stigma of high financial rewards regarding its event-driven opportunity. The popularity of the field continued to grow, especially with Hollywood getting into the action with movies and shows such as Spotless, Cleaner and Sunshine Cleaning promoting our industry. The industry has seen an alarming number of companies being attracted to the field with a lack of understanding and knowledge of what it takes to get into the industry. This has allowed a lot of associations, standards bodies, independent schools, franchises and training platforms to promote heavily into the industry; this, in turn, caused training sessions and course offerings that were not informative and actually could have placed people at risk.

OSHA 1910.5(c)(1) states, “If a particular standard is specifically applicable to a condition,
practice, means, method, operation, or process, it shall prevail over any different general
standard which might otherwise be applicable to the same condition, practice, means, method, operation, or process. (OSHA, 1970) So the real question is which standard fit best?"

On September 6, 2019, a response to the above question finally guided us, does OSHA
require employers to train employees that perform biohazard remediation according to the
training requirements outlined in its HAZWOPER 1910.120 Standard?

The first paragraph said it all but we need to break it down.

“Generally, biohazard remediation workers who respond to a declared emergency 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)”. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], 2019) After reading the response, a question remained - What is an “Emergency” and what does OSHA consider a “Hazardous Substance”?

Under Definitions - OSHA 1910.120
Hazardous substance means -- any substance designated or listed under (A) through
(D) of this definition, exposure to which results or may result in adverse effects on the
health or safety of employees:

[B] Any biological agent and other disease causing agent which after release into the
environment and upon exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or assimilation into any person,
either directly from the environment or indirectly by ingestion through food chains, will or
may reasonably be anticipated to cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities, cancer,
genetic mutation, physiological malfunctions (including malfunctions in reproduction) or
physical deformations in such persons or their offspring.

Hazardous waste means --
[B] Those substances defined as hazardous wastes in 49 CFR 171.8.
Hazardous waste operation means any operation conducted within the scope of this
standard. Hazardous waste site or Site means any facility or location within the scope of this standard at which hazardous waste operations take place.

Health hazard means a chemical or a pathogen where acute or chronic health effects
may occur in exposed employees. It also includes stress due to temperature extremes.
The term health hazard includes chemicals that are classified in accordance with the
Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200, as posing one of the following
hazardous effects: Acute toxicity (any route of exposure); skin corrosion or irritation;
serious eye damage or eye irritation; respiratory or skin sensitization; germ cell
mutagenicity; carcinogenicity; reproductive toxicity; specific target organ toxicity (single or
repeated exposure); aspiration toxicity or simple asphyxiant. (See Appendix A to §
1910.1200—Health Hazard Criteria (Mandatory) for the criteria for determining whether a
chemical is classified as a health hazard.) (OSHA, 1970)

Now that we understand that OSHA declares and considers biologicals’ to be a Hazardous
Substance we needed to find out what it declares to be an “Emergency”.

Within 1910.120, emergency response or responding to emergencies means a response effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders (i.e.,mutual aid groups, local fire departments, etc.) to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance. Responses for incidental releases of hazardous substances where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized or otherwise controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate release area or by maintenance personnel are not considered to be emergency responses within the scope of this Standard. Also, responses to releases of hazardous substances where there is no potential safety or health hazard i.e., fire, explosion, or chemical exposure, are not considered to be emergency responses. (OSHA, 1970)

Post Emergency Response’ means that portion of an emergency response performed after the immediate threat of a release has been stabilized or eliminated.

Let’s talk about “where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate release area or by maintenance personnel are not considered to be emergency responses.” This is a statement many people try to use regarding the requirement.

In the industry, we are not employees of those who have contracted us out, therefore, we cannot be declared as maintenance personnel, so we do fall under the Emergency
Response or the Post-Emergency Response cleanup activities.

OSHA did put out an article declaring what biologic agents are (Biological Agents, OSHA 1970)

From the determination of these definitions, the Letter of Interpretation and facts stated
within, one can conclude that if a site owner calls you and has an uncontrolled release or
exposure risk, this constitutes an “Emergency Response”. As an industry, our objective is to
mitigate pathogenic exposure risks. Looking at all of this collectively, one can conclude that
OSHA 1910.120 and OSHA 1910.1030 are both required as a baseline minimum for all
opportunities which meet these definitions. These two baseline standards should be
recommended prerequisites for any subsequent third-party certification or niche educational
programs. Hopefully, professionals and end-users of these services will see the gap of proper training within our industry before any major problems arise. Please see attached Standard Interpretation from 9/06/2019.

The article is written by Scott W. Vogel, CEO of Emergi-Clean Inc., a family owned and
operated business in New Jersey handling Bio Hazard Mitigation for 24 years. Scott Is
also the director of the East Coast Training Centers for ehs inc., a California based Health and Safety Consulting and Training Company. Scott sits on the government affairs committee for American Bio Recovery Association and Indoor Air Quality Association. For further information you can reach Scott at

Co Authored By: Thomas Licker (President), Eric Morse (Education Committee) from
the American Bio Recovery Association. A Non-Profit Third Party Educational/Certification Body for the Bio Hazard Industry.

To clarify, this is a informational article and makes general recommendations and is open to pubic comment.  Not currently an official stance of the Association.  

Works Cited
Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA]. (2019, 09 06). Standard Interpretation. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Enforcement. D.C: Patrick J. Kapust.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2007, 05 22). Standard Interpretation.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Enforcement. D.C: Richard
E. Fairfax.

Occuptional Safety and Health Administration:
Occupational Safety and Health Administration . (n.d.). Standard 1910.1030. From Occupational Safety and Health Administration :

Occupational Safety and Health Administration . (n.d.). Standard 1910.1030. From Occupational Safety and Health Administration :

Occupational Safety and Health Administration . (n.d.). Standard 1910.1030. From Occupational Safety and Health Administration :

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ABRA’s objective is “to achieve and maintain the highest levels of competence among members in the performance of their profession. To teach, instill and require the highest technical, ethical and educational standards.” ABRA certified firms are required to maintain proper insurance, OSHA compliance, Bloodborne Pathogen training records, respirator fit testing, proper handling of biohazardous waste and other laws or requirements in order to maintain good standing with the American Bio-Recovery Association aka ABRA.