The OSHA Guidance for Emergency Response Workers, EMTs and Fire Personnel
OSHA just released guidance for workers and employers involved in providing emergency services such as emergency medical services (EMS) and medical transport, fire and rescue, and law enforcement. Here’s what you should know.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that its guidance for emergency services personnel supplements the general interim guidance for workers and employers of workers at increased risk of occupational exposure to the novel coronavirus.
OSHA’s guidance notes the importance of remaining alert of changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability, and implement infection prevention measure accordingly. Employers should consult the CDC’s Opening Up America Again resource and adapt to this guidance to better suit evolving risk levels.
Consulting and adapting to these guidances are particularly important for emergency response workers like EMTs, medical transport providers, firefighters and law enforcement officers because they are often on the front lines of dealing with individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
When assessing a workplace or profession’s risk, use OSHA’s occupational exposure risk pyramid, which can serve as a guide to employers. The pyramid separates categories of risk from lower (caution), medium, high and very high:
Typically, emergency response workers are already familiar with safe work practices, the utilization of PPE, and standard precautions in preventing the transmission of infectious diseases, including for body substance isolation.
However, given the ongoing spread of COVID-19, employers and workers should take additional precautions by employing a combination of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE.
The guidance outlines various engineering and administrative controls employers can implement for their emergency service personnel. It also includes tips for safe work practices like how to use more caution handling needles, transporting patients, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and wearing proper PPE.
For more information and detailed suggestions on controls and workplace practices, see the OSHA guidance.