OSHA provides anthrax matrix’ to guide employers

Most workplaces are in the safe green zone’

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an "anthrax matrix" to guide employers in how to respond to the risk of anthrax exposure.

Finding your zone

OSHA says that employers should determine whether their workplace falls in the green zone, where anthrax contamination is unlikely; the yellow zone, where such contamination is possible; or the red zone, where authorities have indicated anthrax spore contamination has been found or is strongly suspected. "Based on information currently available, contamination with anthrax spores and exposure to the bacterium are unlikely in the vast majority of American workplaces, represented by the green zone," OSHA says.

Green-zone employers should establish procedures for the safe handling of mail and packages. "Employers may wish to consider providing nitrile or vinyl gloves to employees who request them," OSHA says. In the yellow zone, OSHA advises employers to take additional measures such as training workers on anthrax and its symptoms, and limiting the number of people who might be exposed to airborne particles near mail-sorting machinery. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and respirators, are voluntary. In the red zone, employers must comply with OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, including providing PPE.

"[T]he level of protection chosen, and the PPE used should be proportional to the risk anticipated for the task workers will do," the matrix states.

(Editor’s note: For more information on the anthrax matrix, see the OSHA web site: www.osha.gov/bioterrorism/anthrax/matrix/index.html.)