Infection Control and Prevention - Frequently Asked Questions

Infection control principles and practices for local public health agencies


Gwen Borlaug
Infection Control Epidemiologist
Wisconsin Division of Public Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
Phone 608-267-7711
Fax 608-261-4976

What is the definition of a volunteer, for the purposes of coverage by OSHA standards?
  • A volunteer is someone who receives no form of compensation from the entity using the services of the volunteer. This includes uniforms and meals. However, an occasional celebration that includes a meal does not negate volunteer status.
  • Although volunteers are not covered under OSHA standards, it is in the best interests of the agency and the volunteers to afford them the same protections as employees when performing job tasks that require PPE and other safety measures.
If I work for another agency, which PPE policies and procedures do I follow - the ones from the agency I work for or from the agency to which I am providing assistance?

Follow all safety procedures, including PPE use, from the agency for which you are providing assistance. It is the responsibility of the receiving agency to provide PPE and training on its proper use before job tasks requiring PPE are performed.

If employees from other agencies need respiratory protection that requires medical evaluation and fit testing, should the receiving agency require those employees to have their own medical evaluation and fit testing done, or does the receiving agency have

The receiving agency is responsible for providing medical evaluation, fit testing and training to those needing respiratory protection.

Is fit-testing and medical evaluation required during a public health emergency?
  • There may be limited time when deploying people to respond to an emergency.
  • All components of a respiratory protection program should be conducted during a public health emergency, including fit-testing, medical evaluation, and training, in order to protect employees and volunteers to the greatest extent possible. However, OSHA officials have indicated that health care organizations will not be fined for practices that occur during an infectious disease outbreak.
Where will home health agencies, Emergency Medical Services, group homes, and fire departments get PPE supplies during a public health emergency?

These agencies are responsible for providing their employees with current day-to-day supplies of appropriate PPE as well as ensuring that sufficient supplies are available during a public health emergency. PPE should be ordered directly from suppliers, as other sources such as hospitals or public health agencies will not have stockpiles to distribute to employers in their area.

Should local public health agencies purchase supplies of respirators or masks for use by the general public?

No. You should not purchase these items for the general public. Consider having these items on hand only at mass clinics or local public health agencies where members of the general public may present with signs and symptoms of communicable diseases.

If a local public health agency enlists the aid of employees from other agencies or from volunteers during a public health emergency, is the local public health agency required to provide PPE for them as if they were their own employees?

Local public health agencies should protect volunteers and employees from other agencies in the same way they protect their own employees.

Last Revised: November 10, 2015