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Towns Required to Provide

      Employee
          Vaccinations

Judith Doyle

 

 

                        By Judith Doyle
Executive Director, Mayors Wellness Campaign
Woman Doctor ready to give innoculation

 

Our public safety officers are exposed to bloodborne disease and other potentially infectious materials. Many workers risk on-the-job contact with blood and other body fluids. These materials may contain pathogens; organisms that can cause serious disease.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C warrant serious concern for workers occupationally exposed to blood and certain other body fluids that contain bloodborne pathogens. It is estimated nationally that more than 5.6 million workers in health care and public safety occupations could be potentially exposed. In recognition of these potential hazards, the New Jersey Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Program has adopted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation [Bloodborne Pathogens 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.1030] to help protect New Jersey public workers from these health hazards.

The major intent of this regulation is to prevent the transmission of blooborne diseases within potentially exposed workplace occupations. The regulation is expected to reduce and prevent employee exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and other bloodborne diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates this protocol could prevent more than 200 deaths and about 9,000 infections per year from HBV alone. The regulatory scheme requires employers to follow universal precautions, which means that all blood or other potentially infectious materials must be treated as being infectious for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens. (This includes hepatitis C.)  

Each employer must determine the application of universal precautions by performing an employee exposure evaluation. If employee exposure is recognized, as defined by the standard, then the standard mandates a number of requirements. One of the major requirements is the development of an Exposure Control Plan, which mandates engineering controls, work practices, personal protective equipment, HBV vaccinations and training. The regulations also mandate practices and procedures for housekeeping, medical evaluations, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.

The standard covers all public employees who may have contact with blood or other otentially infectious materials because of their work. Employees most likely to be covered include, but are not limited to:

• Health care workers (e.g.: medical and dental personnel, school nurses);
• Emergency medical services employees;
• Firefighters (including volunteers);
• Police officers;
• Corrections officers;
• Some laundry and housekeeping staff;
• Lifeguards; and
• Workers in institutions for the developmentally disabled.

The Law On July 6, 1993, the federal OSHA standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens, was adopted under the New Jersey Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Act. On September 4, 2001, PEOSH began enforcement of the act for the public sector. Under the act, municipalities are required to provide vaccinations to its public safety personnel to protect against contracting certain diseases, such as hepatitis. This standard protects workers in the public sector in New Jersey who come in contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.

Vaccinations To assist municipalities in complying with the NJ PEOSH Act, the New Jersey Department of Treasury offers discounted vaccines purchased on NJ State Contract. Municipalities can purchase these vaccines through the State purchasing program—saving property tax dollars versus buying vaccines on the open market (www.nj.gov/treasury/ purchase/noa/contracts/t1659.shtml).

Employers must offer free hepatitis B vaccinations to all employees who have anticipated exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. The first dose of the 3-dose vaccine must be given within ten working days after employees begin jobs that have potential for exposure. Employees may decline the vaccination, but must sign a “declination” statement if they do so.

Employers are also required to provide initial training for employees who have anticipated occupational exposure. This training must cover all of the major parts of the standard and be repeated annually. Employees must also have access to a copy of the NJ PEOSH regulation and the exposure control plan.

Information For further information consult PEOSH Publication No. 21, “OSHA Revises the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard” available on the PEOSH website: www.state.nj.us/health/ eoh/peoshweb or contact the PEOSH Program at (609) 984-1863.

 

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