Shaping Smarter Regulations

Reduce training frequency for OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

31 March 2015

 

Regarding: Yale University’s Comments on DOL’s Request for Information

Submitted via E Docket

 

 

OSHA Docket Office

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20210

 

Dear Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

 

Yale University submits the following comments in response to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) 3 February 2015 Request for Information (RFI) on improving regulation and regulatory review, and identifying and reducing regulatory burden. DOL published this RFI in response to Executive Orders 13563 and 13610. Requests for comment were published in the 3 February 2015 and the 26 March 2015 Federal Register.

 

As explained in more detail below, Yale University requests that the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) make the following three changes to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Yale University provides Bloodborne Pathogens training to over 3,300 students, faculty and staff a year. Due to our experience, we believe our comments may be valuable to you. We previously requested these changes in a 2010 comment on OSHA’s Regulatory Flexibility Act Review of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. In 2010 our comments were strongly supported by the regulated community, and we believe that support for these changes continues to be widespread and strong.

 

We request that:

1. The retraining requirements in 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2)(ii)B and (iv) should be changed from annually to every three years.

2. The requirement in 29 CFR 1910.1030(f)(5)(i) for providing a written opinion for the Hepatitis B vaccination should be deleted because it is obsolete.

3. Under 29 CFR 1910.1030(f)(5)(ii), employers should have the option of documenting post exposure evaluations in the employee’s medical record in lieu of providing a separate written opinion.

 

We believe that these changes will make the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard less burdensome and more effective in achieving its regulatory objective.

Frequency of Required Retraining

29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2)(ii)(A) requires employees who may be occupationally exposed to bloodborne pathogens to be trained at the time of their initial assignment, and 1910.1030(g)(2)(v) requires additional training when procedures or tasks change. Given these requirements and the reasons below, we urge OSHA to change the retraining requirements in 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2)(ii)B and (iv) from annually to every three years:

• In our experience, employees are capable of retaining bloodborne pathogen health and safety information for three years.

• A triennial retraining requirement would be consistent with safety training requirements of other Federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s requirement for recurrent hazardous materials training is once every three years (see 49 CFR 172.704(c)(2)).

• Factors have changed in workplaces affected by this rule. In the twenty three years since the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was promulgated, the general public has become much more aware of bloodborne pathogen hazards and universal precautions. The media and other sources commonly describe and depict these hazards and precautions. Employees do not find this information as new or novel as they did eighteen years ago.

• The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is now well established, and employers have incorporated this information into policies and procedures. Numerous reminders exist in many forms in the workplace, including safety posters, signs and manuals, as well as information provided with products and supplies that may be associated with blood.

• Considering the aforementioned factors, the annual retraining requirement is unduly burdensome. At Yale University, we estimate that annual retraining consumes more than 2,000 person-hours per year. Changing the annual refresher training requirement to a triennial one would save approximately 1,300 person-hours every year.

 

Of course, a triennial retraining requirement would not preclude an employer from retraining more frequently if they wished to do so.

Healthcare Professional’s Written Opinion

As mentioned above, we request deletion of 29 CFR 1910.1030(f)(5)(i), which requires a written opinion for Hepatitis B vaccinations. This section is obsolete because—unlike eighteen years ago—there are very few contraindications for the Hepatitis B vaccine. Yale Employee Health (our healthcare professional) almost never tells a potentially exposed employee that he or she should not be vaccinated.

 

In addition, we request that 29 CFR 1910.1030(f)(5)(ii) be modified to allow employers to document post-exposure evaluations in the employee’s medical record instead of providing a separate written opinion. For this and all other potentially hazardous materials exposures, it is standard practice to document a post-exposure evaluation in the employee’s medical record, which they have a right to view and obtain. When evaluations are documented in the medical record, a separate written opinion is duplicative and unnecessary.

 

We also wish to bring to OSHA’s attention that—at some point—most employees in the U.S. will have received the Hepatitis B series through childhood vaccination programs. As a result, OSHA should consider modifying the Hepatitis B Vaccine Declination form (Appendix A).

Conclusion

In conclusion, Yale University requests that OSHA make the above changes to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. In particular, we urge OSHA to change the retraining requirements from annually to every three years. For the reasons we describe above, we believe that triennial retraining is at least as effective as annual retraining. This change would be welcome by employers and employees alike. It will allow both groups to reallocate training time to more important workplace risks.

 

Thank you for considering our comments. Should you have questions after you’ve had an opportunity to review this letter, please contact Peter A. Reinhardt, Director of Yale Environmental, Health and Safety, at (203) 737-2123.

 

Sincerely,

 

Peter A. Reinhardt

Environmental Health & Safety Director

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