By Benjamin D. Briggs and Adam R. Young

Mosquito sucking blood from people.Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA Interim Guidance recommends that all employers develop and implement policies to deal with Zika virus.

What is Zika?

The Zika virus disease (Zika) primarily is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes.  The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).  While some cases of Zika have occasionally been severe, infected people rarely go to the hospital or die from Zika.  For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.  An individual’s symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 7 days after exposure to the virus.

Where is Zika Being Transmitted?

According to the CDC, Zika has been reported throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Mosquito-born Zika cases have been reported in United States territories, while hundreds of reports cases in the continental United States mostly have been limited to travel-borne sources. Zika may be sexually transmitted or passed to a baby around the time of its birth.  The Zika virus has been documented to result in injuries to fetuses, resulting in severe birth defects such as microcephaly. Federal agencies warn that mosquitoes in the Continental United States will become infected with and spread Zika, and travel-associated Zika infections in U.S. states may result in the local spread of the virus.

OSHA Interim Guidance and Recommendations

We had recently issued a Management Alert on Zika – Employer Liability Issues. On April 22, 2016, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Healthy, released an Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus (OSHA – DTSEM FS-3855). The Interim Guidance provides recommendations for employers on issues related to Zika, including hazard communication, employee clothing, and the proper use of insect repellants.  Compliance with these recommendations is voluntary, as they are not formal OSHA standards.  However, employers should review these recommendations and adjust polices accordingly.

Outdoor Workers

For outdoor workers, OSHA recommends:

  • Inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika through mosquito bites and train them how to protect themselves. Check the CDC Zika website to find Zika-affected areas.
  • Provide insect repellents and encourage their use.
  • Provide workers with, and encourage them to wear, clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Consider providing workers with hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
  • In warm weather, encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This type of clothing protects workers against the sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Always provide workers with adequate water, rest and shade, and monitor workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Eliminate sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Train workers about the importance of eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed at the worksite.
  • If requested by a worker, consider reassigning anyone who indicates she is or may become pregnant, or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.

The Interim Guidance provides specific recommendations for health care workers, laboratory workers, and workers who specialize in mosquito control.

Dealing with Infected Employees

When any employees are suspected or confirmed to be infected with Zika , OSHA recommends that employers:

  • Ensure that supervisors and all potentially exposed workers are aware of the symptoms of Zika.
  • Train workers to seek medical evaluation if they develop symptoms of Zika.
  • Assure that workers receive prompt and appropriate medical evaluation and follow-up after a suspected exposure to Zika.
  • If the exposure falls under OSHA’s BBP standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), employers must comply with medical evaluation and follow-up requirements in the standard. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(f).
  • Consider options for granting sick leave during the infectious period. The CDC describes steps employers and employees can take to protect others during the first week of Zika illness.

Employee Travel to Zika-infected Areas

OSHA’s Interim Guidance provides recommendations for dealing with employee travel to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks:

  • Review the CDC guidance prior to assigning travel.
  • Consider allowing flexibility in required travel for workers who are concerned about Zika virus exposure. Flexible travel and leave policies may help control the spread of Zika virus, including to workers who are concerned about reproductive effects potentially associated with Zika virus infection.
  • Consider delaying travel to Zika-affected areas, especially for workers who are or may become pregnant or whose sexual partners may become pregnant.

Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks so they do not pass Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.

However, employers should closely consider any travel prohibitions — restrictions on employee travel on the basis of pregnancy or gender should be closely scrutinized, as they may form the basis of a gender discrimination claim. Zika is advancing into the Continental United States and employers need to be prepared.  Employers should review these recommendations and plan accordingly.

By Brent I. Clark, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000060649768MediumFederal OSHA has recently revised and re-published its “General Industry Digest” (Digest). OSHA 2201-08R 2015.

The Digest gives an overview of OSHA’s general industry standards to aid employers, supervisors, workers, and safety and health professionals in achieving compliance.

The Digest provides summaries of the “standards most frequently cited” and those standards “which cover particularly hazardous situations.” In 2014, OSHA’s most frequently cited standards were:

1 1926.501 Fall Protection (Construction)
2 1910.1200 Hazard Communication
3 1926.451 Scaffolding (Construction)
4 1910.134 Respiratory Protection
5 1910.178 Powered Industrial Trucks
6 1910.147 Lockout/Tagout
7 1926.1053 Ladders (Construction)
8 1910.305 Electrical, Wiring Methods
9 1910.212 Machine Guarding
10 1910.303 Electrical, General Requirements


OSHA continues to encourage employers to adopt an “injury and illness prevention program,” a “proactive process to help employers find and fix workplace hazards.” OSHA has not, however, adopted an IIPP standard. The Digest outlines recommendations and key elements for an IIPP program.

The Digest also includes a summary of “Hazardous Workplace Complaints: Worker Rights,” explaining that “workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards.” Appropriately, the Digest notes that “often the best and fastest way to get a hazard corrected is to notify a supervisor or employer.”

For businesses, this Digest can be read as the Agency’s perspective on compliance under these commonly cited standards. However, the Digest provides only a perfunctory summary of OSHA’s position on each standard. Agency interpretations and enforcement policy also can change over time. While the Digest may be a useful resource and instructive tool for safety personnel, it is an incomplete guide to compliance in your facility.


By Ilana R. Morady and Elizabeth Leifel Ash

OSHA has issued a more than 800-page Final Rule revising the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200.  The primary purpose of the revised rule is to improve employees’ understanding of health and physical hazards associated with chemical substances and to align requirements for communicating those standards with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. 

The most significant changes in the Final Rule relate to labeling of hazardous chemicals and the development of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (previously referred to as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS).  The Final Rule includes mandatory appendices related to labels on containers (Appendix C) and SDS (Appendix D), each of which contain very specific requirements that previously did not exist under Section 1910.1200.  Chemical manufacturers are required to label containers of hazardous chemicals with the following information:  1) product identifier, 2) signal word, 3) hazard statement(s), 4) pictogram(s), precautionary statement(s), and 5) name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party.  The current Hazard Communication Standard required only “appropriate hazard warnings.”  Under the Final Rule, Appendix C gives very specific instructions as to the required verbiage and pictograms depending on the classification of the chemical hazard(s).

Similarly, the Final Rule includes far more specific requirements for SDS than the current Hazard Communication Standard includes with respect for MSDS.  For example, the Final Rule requires information to be communicated on the SDS in a specific order, whereas the current Hazard Communication Standard specifies only the information that must be included on the MSDS without specifying an order or format.  Mandatory Appendix D provides additional detail as to the required format and information for SDS.

The Final Rule also contains revisions to other OSHA standards, including chemical-specific requirements such as those related to formaldehyde (1910.1048), asbestos (1910.1001, 1915.1001, and 1926.1101), benzene (1910.1028), hazardous waste operations and emergency response (1910.120, 1926.65), and process safety management (1910.119, 1926.64) to be consistent with the revised Hazard Communication Standard.

The Final Rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on March 26, 2012.  The rule contains milestones that will require employers to be fully compliant with all of the new requirements by 2016.

By Meagan Newman

Salon owners may not be thinking about OSHA Hazard Communication training for their employees–and this would be a mistake. In recent months OSHA has issued a number of citations to beauty salons and manufacturers of hair straightening products containing formaldehyde alleging violations of the hazard communication standard. In a December 8, 2011 press release urging employers to better protect employees from the hazards of formaldehyde exposure, the agency states that it is continuing to respond to a number of complaints and referrals concerning exposure in salons, beauty schools and manufacturers. According to the release formaldehyde is an irritant, can cause an allergic reaction and poses a cancer risk.

“The best way to control exposure to formaldehyde is to use products that do not contain formaldehyde. Salons should check the label or product information to make sure it does not list formaldehyde, formalin, methylene glycol or any of the other names for formaldehyde,” said Dr. Michaels, Asst. Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “If salon owners decide to use products that contain or release formaldehyde, then they must follow a number of protective practices-including air monitoring, worker training and, if levels are over OSHA limits, good ventilation or respirators.”