The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the cases of Ebola infections in the United States have understandably upset and frightened many people. Ebola is extremely infectious if contracted and has a high mortality rate—but according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Ebola does not pose a threat to most workers in the United States.
However, some industries may be more likely to encounter Ebola than others, such as health care, airline services and mortuary care. According to OSHA, workers who interact with people, animals, goods and equipment arriving from foreign countries with current Ebola outbreaks are the most at risk for contracting Ebola.
As an employer, you always want to keep your workers safe from illness and injury. OSHA has recently released guidelines on cleaning and decontaminating Ebola on surfaces for workers and employers in non-health care/non-laboratory settings. The guidelines address cleaning and disinfection, disinfectants for Ebola, proper waste disposal and appropriate respiratory protection. The guidelines also describe the appropriate personal protective equipment employers need to select in order to protect workers from exposure, which include:
• Nitrile gloves (consider using double-gloves for additional protection)
• Fluid-resistant or fluid-impermeable gowns or coveralls
• Goggles or face shields
• Facemasks that cover the nose and mouth
• Sleeve, leg and shoe coverings
• Additional respiratory protection such as a respirator, if necessary