Bloodborne pathogens and de facto coverage

Date Posted: 09/13/2021

de facto responderOSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard covers employees who the employer has designated to provide first aid. However, if a non-designated person routinely provides first aid to coworkers, OSHA may deem that person to fall under the standard as a de facto responder.

OSHA addressed this in Compliance Directive CPL 02-02-069, which provides enforcement guidance for inspectors. In a section discussing coverage of designated responders, the Directive states: “An employee who routinely provides first aid to fellow employees with the knowledge of the employer may also fall, de facto, under this designation even if the employer has not officially designated this employee as a first aid provider.”

This is not the same as a Good Samaritan who voluntarily assists an injured coworker. A Good Samaritan is not covered by the bloodborne standard. However, if a person “routinely” acts as a Good Samaritan by providing first aid to others (and the employer is aware of this), OSHA may expect the employer to treat that individual as a designated responder.

A de facto designation might occur for a number of reasons. Potential situations include:

  • A supervisor keeps first aid supplies in his or her office and routinely helps injured workers.
  • An employee has first aid training (perhaps from military service or from working as an EMT) and the employer learns that he or she regularly assists injured coworkers.

As with other workers covered by the bloodborne standard, a de facto responder would require training and other protections (such as post-exposure evaluation and follow-up).

Determining coverage

Providing first aid training does not determine coverage under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. OSHA has clarified that employers may provide first aid training as a benefit, but if the employer does not designate those workers as responders, the bloodborne standard does not apply. Imposing the expectation (or designation) to provide first aid is what triggers coverage.

As noted, a worker might respond as a Good Samaritan, but such a worker is not covered by the bloodborne standard either.

However, if the employer becomes aware of an employee who routinely provides first aid to coworkers, that person should be treated as a designated responder, given appropriate training, and provided with other protections of the standard.

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