Friday, September 30, 2011

Are there exceptions for PPE use by healthcare workers?

One way the employer can protect workers against exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, is by providing and ensuring they use personal protective equipment, or PPE. Wearing appropriate PPE can significantly reduce risk, since it acts as a barrier against exposure. Employers are required to provide, clean, repair, and replace this equipment as needed, and at no cost to workers.

A worker may choose, temporarily and briefly, under rare and extraordinary circumstances, to forego use of personal protective equipment. It must be the worker’s professional judgment that using the personal protective equipment would prevent the delivery of health care or public safety services or would pose an increased hazard to the safety of the worker or coworker. When such a situation occurs, the employer is required to investigate and document the circumstances to determine if there is a way to avoid it from happening again in the future. Employers and workers should be aware that this is not a blanket exemption to the requirement to use PPE. OSHA expects that this will be an extremely rare occurrence.

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