The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorizes employees based on their exposure to workplace hazards. These hazards can include blood, noise, toxic fumes and extreme temperatures. OSHA requires that employers properly train and protect Category 1 employees, who are expected to face these hazards as a condition of the job.
OSHA sets categories based on the exposure level to a hazard while performing routine job tasks. Category 1 employees are all exposed to a specific hazard as a regular part of their job. Category 2 contains employees who are occasionally exposed to a hazard. Category 3 employees have no occupational exposure to a hazard.
Category 1 employees must receive training at no cost to themselves before they are exposed to the hazard. This training may be part of their educational credentials. For example, nurses and dental assistants train in how to handle potentially infectious materials in school.
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Category 1 employees can access the employer's exposure control plan written to minimize their exposure to the hazard. Employees can choose to use their own personal protective equipment like ear plugs or hard hats. However, the employer must ensure they use all protective equipment appropriately. Furthermore, the employer must provide all Category 1 employees who require respirators an OSHA-approved unit free of charge.