OSHA Publishes Prevention, Management Guidance for Zika Exposures in Labs
OSHA recently published guidance for laboratory workers and employers to prevent and manage exposure to Zika virus. The primary exposure to the virus for lab workers is through sharps injuries. In June 2016, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh accidentally infected herself with Zika when a needle punctured her skin (see the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The worker missed a few days of work but has since recovered.
Workers with skin abrasions or cuts can also be exposed if they contact contaminated materials. Other possible exposures include splashing of infectious liquids that contact the eyes, nose, and mouth; accidentally touching the face with contaminated gloves or when handling contaminated waste; and contacting blood or other body fluids from animals studied in the laboratory.
Employers and workers in laboratories who handle human blood and body fluids are required to comply with OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard, which requires use of engineering and work practice controls such as proper hygiene. Laboratories must also comply with OSHA’s standards on personal protective equipment, including the respiratory protection standard.
OSHA’s guidance, which is available as a PDF, also addresses training of workers and responding to exposure incidents. More information about Zika is available from CDC.