New OSHA COVID-19 Guide for First Responders

EMS and medical transportation providers, firefighters, and law enforcement officers are on the front lines for dealing with individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

OSHA has issued guidance for workers and employers involved in providing emergency services such as emergency medical services (EMS) and medical transport, fire and rescue, and law enforcement.

The guidance contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. 

Typically, emergency response workers are already familiar with safe work practices, the utilization of PPE, and standard precautions in preventing the transmission of infectious diseases, including for body substance isolation.

Workers and employers involved in EMS or other medical transport operations will likely need to adapt guidelines from the guidance for healthcare workers and employees to the mobile work environment.

That may mean relying on PPE (e.g., respirators, gloves, eye protection) to protect workers when the use of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs) or other isolation mechanisms are not practical and when staff have close contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in transit.

The guidance outlines various engineering and administrative controls employers can implement for their emergency service personnel.

It also includes tips for safe work practices like how to use more caution handling needles, transporting patients, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and wearing proper PPE.