OSHA requires annual training of your employees (in companies with more than 10 employees) who can be reasonably expected to come in contact with blood or body fluids in the performance of their responsibilities. The federal code, 29 CFR 1910.1030, has not changed recently. As a result perhaps of less attention, some companies have become more complacent in meeting the requirements. Other topics increasingly take priority, and before you know it, new staff has been hired without this training taking place, even though it may be resonable to assume it applies to at least some in your custodial staff - if not all.
Letters of interpretation have generally indicated that OSHA does not consider custodial or maintenance work inherently covered by the standard. The following is a sentence from an April 17, 1992, response letter by OSHA to an inquiry:
"OSHA does not generally consider maintenance personnel-janitorial-housekeeping staff employed in non-health care facilities to have occupational exposure."
PLAY IT SAFE - e-Book/Slide presentation to assist in bloodborne pathogens training.
REASONABLY ANTICIPATED EXPOSURE
However, therein lies the catch. Custodial work is widely known to frequently involve the clean up of bodily fluids, or the cleaning and disposal of items contaminated with blood. The standard calls for an employer to have produced an Exposure Control Plan. In that plan, it is the responsibility of the employer to determine what worker categories have risk and under what circumstances. So clarifying the sentence above, and in the same letter, OSHA went on to remind the inquirer that:
"At the same time, it is the employer's responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve occupational exposure. If OSHA determines, on a case-by-case basis, that sufficient evidence exists of reasonably anticipated exposure, the employer will be held responsible for providing the protections of 29 CFR 1910.1030 to the employees with occupational exposure."
Here are just a few circumstances where a custodial worker might reasonably be anticipated to have a "need to know" regarding bloodborne pathogens:
- Cleaning up vomit
- Collecting or transporting sharps in trash from persons who test their blood or take insulin shots
- Cleaning and emptying feminine hygiene receptacles
- Cleaning carpet or hard surfaces after an injury
- Cleaning toilets and restrooms
- Cleaning wrestling mats, locker rooms and showers
There are liabilities that may be associated with failing to continue training and keeping the employer's Exposure Control Plan up to date. Let's say a company relies on the first sentence above that OSHA does not in general consider custodial an at risk category. Then, in the process of cleaning up a blood spill from gym flooring following an athletic accident, a custodian contracts hepatitis C. The worker was not wearing goggles and some of the blood material came in contact with his or her eyes. The worker filed a complaint and produced a job description requiring him or her to perform those types of duties at athletic events. It is also pointed out there was no training for this common eventuality.
The worker is only motivated to investigate solutions and remedies for the costs and damages of a disease that might be reasonably be linked to perfomance of his or her duties. In that process, they may be disturbed to learn training that might have protected them was not provided, or perhaps was not kept current. What will OSHA decide? The answer is that until your particular case is determined, nobody will know.
For the safety of your staff, and to reduce liabilities in your organization, it is probably a good return on investment to develop an Exposure Control Plan, identify the risks your staff actually faces and to institute the training that will help them respect the infection potential of bloodborne pathogens. Meeting the requirements is good for you and good for your staff.
PUR-O-ZONE representatives can assist you in tackling this challenge. Although there is no such thing as "OSHA-approved" training, and we cannot certify your program is complete (no group can do that), we do have bloodborne pathogens presentations that include not only standard information in an interesting way, but information on more recent threats like c.diff and MRSA, not envisioned in the original regulations. We can provide programmed learning exercises for your staff, and have experience in controlling infection and personal protective equipment. We can also provide sample plan information to assist you in getting started toward creating or updating your ECP, as well as assistance in undertaking annual reviews of the information before your staff. Let us know if we can help you meet this important requirement.
For a look at a sample Exposure Control Plan template, click here.