Cleaning & Decontamination of Ebola on Surfaces

Guidance for Workers and Employers in Non-Healthcare/Non-Laboratory Settings

Workers tasked with cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated with Ebola virus, the virus that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), must be protected from exposure. Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers are protected from exposure to Ebola and that workers are not exposed to harmful levels of chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection.

Guidelines for cleaning and disinfection
• Immediately clean and disinfect any visible surface contamination from blood, urine, feces, vomit, or other body fluids that may contain Ebola virus.
• Isolate areas of suspected Ebola virus contamination until decontamination is completed to minimize exposure to individuals not performing the work.
• Cover spills with absorbent material (e.g., paper towels), then pour disinfectant on to saturate the area, and allow bleach to soak into spills for at least 30 minutes before cleaning to allow it to kill any virus or other infectious agents that may be present.
• Treat any visible contamination or bulk spill matter with a suitable disinfectant (described on p. 2) before cleaning up and removing bulk material.
• After disinfecting and removing bulk material, clean and decontaminate the surface using the disinfectant.
• Ensure adequate ventilation in areas where workers are using disinfectants, including by opening windows and doors, or using mechanical ventilation equipment.
• In some cases, the use of chemical disinfectants may require an employer to train workers about how to protect themselves against chemical hazards and comply with OSHA ‘s Hazard Communication, 29 CFR 1910.1200, and other standards.
• Use tools, such as tongs from a spill kit, as much as possible rather than doing cleanup work directly with gloved hands.
• After cleaning and disinfection work is complete, remove PPE as follows: gloves,
face shield/goggles, gown, and then mask/respirator. Wash hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand gel if no running water is available.
• Avoid cleaning techniques, such as using pressurized air or water sprays, that may result in the generation of bio-aerosols (aerosolized droplets containing infectious particles that can be inhaled).

OSHA launches dialogue on hazardous chemical exposures and PEL

 OSHA launches national dialogue on hazardous chemical exposures
and permissible exposure limits in the workplace

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced it is launching a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances. The first stage of this dialogue is a request for information on the management of hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits.

OSHA's PELs, which are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, are intended to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Ninety-five percent of OSHA's current PELs, which cover fewer than 500 chemicals, have not been updated since their adoption in 1971. The agency's current PELs cover only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful. Substantial resources are required to issue new exposure limits or update existing workplace exposure limits, as courts have required complex analyses for each proposed PEL.

"Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "While we will continue to work on updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards."

OSHA is seeking public comment regarding current practices and future methods for updating PELs, as well as new strategies for better protecting workers from hazardous chemical exposures. Specifically, the agency requests suggestions on:
  • possible streamlined approaches for risk assessment and feasibility analyses and
  • alternative approaches for managing chemical exposures, including control banding, task-based approaches and informed substitution.
The goal of this public dialogue is to give stakeholders a forum to develop innovative, effective approaches to improve the health of workers in the United States. In the coming months, OSHA will announce additional ways for members of the public to participate in the conversation.

The comment period for the RFI will continue for 180 days. Instructions for submitting comments are available in the Federal Register, Docket No. OSHA-2012-0023, at https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-24009. For more information, please visit the OSHA Chemical Management Request for Information Web page at http://www.osha.gov/chemicalmanagement/index.html.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.