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A retailer learned the hard way that instructing a worker to clean up spilled blood means that the employee has �occupational exposure.� If an employer has one or more workers with occupational exposure, that employer falls under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard!

To learn more, visit our Bloodborne Pathogens ezExplanation.

What did the retailer do wrong?

In February, OSHA received a complaint that a retail worker at one of the stores was told to clean up spilled blood after a customer was injured. However, the agency found that:

  • The store lacked a written exposure control plan,
  • A hepatitis B vaccination was not made available, and
  • The worker had not received bloodborne pathogens training.

What were the violations and penalties?

In April, OSHA issued penalties in this case amounting to over $31,000. The agency also cited the company for �serious� violations of 1910.1030:

  • Paragraph (c)(1)(i) � Each employer having an employee(s) with occupational exposure must establish a written exposure control plan;
  • Paragraph (f)(1)(i) � The employer must make available the hepatitis B vaccine and vaccination series to all employees who have occupational exposure; and
  • Paragraph (g)(2)(i) � The employer must train each employee with occupational exposure.

OSHA settled the contested case

The retailer contested the citations. Now, OSHA reclassified the written plan violation as �other-than-serious.� The agency also lowered the total penalty to $10,000 and entered a settlement with the company. The agreement requires the company to withdraw its notice of contest. More importantly, it requires the company to take remedial actions at approximately 370 stores:

  • Develop and implement a written exposure control plan;
  • Train covered retail workers about bloodborne hazards;
  • Offer a hepatitis B vaccination series to covered retail workers;
  • Not require other retail workers � not covered by the program � to clean up or otherwise handle blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM); and
  • Inform non-covered workers who they must contact if there is an event requiring cleanup or handling of blood or OPIM.

In addition, store managers and third-party consultants must monitor stores for compliance. The company must not retaliate against workers who express safety concerns to managers or to OSHA.

Standard protects those with occupational exposure

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard protects workers who may reasonably be anticipated to come into contact with blood or OPIM as a result of performing their job duties. Workers with this type of contact have �occupational exposure.� Therefore, they are protected by 1910.1030. Its requirements include establishing an exposure control plan, training employees, and providing the hepatitis B vaccine, among other safeguards.

What if you hire a contractor for cleanup instead?

If you hire a contractor to handle blood spills, you still must ensure that the contract worker receives the protections under the standard. A September 1, 1992, OSHA letter of interpretation explains that:

  • The contractor maintains a continuing relationship with workers,
  • The client employer creates and controls the hazards,
  • The client employer has the primary responsibility for protection, and
  • Both share the responsibility of protecting the contract worker.

The letter goes on to say that, in the context of 1910.1030, OSHA expects the contractor employer to:

  • Provide generic training in universal precautions,
  • Ensure that workers are provided with the required vaccinations, and
  • Provide proper follow-up evaluation following an exposure incident.

On the flip side, client employers would normally:

  • Provide site-specific training and personal protective equipment, and
  • Have the primary responsibility to control situations involving potential exposure to hazards.

The client may specify what qualifications are required for supplied workers, including vaccinations.

Key to remember

If you designate, instruct, or expect your worker to clean up blood spills, that worker has occupational exposure. That means you must provide the protections found at 1910.1030.