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OSHA Decedent Management Regulations

A part of healthcare that people often overlook is decedent care—what happens to a patient after they’ve passed away. When a patient passes away in a hospital or medical center, they are transferred to a morgue setting. The regulations that dictate morgue proceedings, at least as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), are not all that different from the regulations that govern other clinical settings. However, there are a few variables that must be taken into consideration when working with human remains.

According to OSHA, personal protective equipment (PPE) is of utmost importance in the morgue setting. Morgue settings may have sharp objects in the form of medical equipment, environmental debris, and bone fragments. Human remains can also potentially transmit dangerous infectious diseases (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005). As such, a double layer of a cut-proof glove and outer glove, possibly of latex or a similar material, is recommended. A morgue professional’s feet must also be protected from environmental and tissue debris (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005). Morgue professionals should also protect their eyes and face from potential contamination, in the form of bodily fluids and fecal matter, with a surgical mask and some form of eye protection. If a morgue professional’s PPE becomes damaged or soaked through with bodily fluids, then the PPE should be removed, the professional should wash as necessary, and put on fresh PPE before continuing their work (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005).

Basic hygiene is almost a must for morgue professionals. A variety of diseases can spread when a person encounters human remains—hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and bacterial infections for example. OSHA recommends washing one’s hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand cleaner such as hand sanitizer, upon removing one’s protective gloves (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005). If soft-tissue injuries or other wounds occur while working with human remains, the morgue professional should immediately seek care for the injuries. Vaccinations for hepatitis B and tetanus boosters as necessary are also recommended for morgue professionals (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005).

OSHA also recommends that morgue professionals take care when lifting or moving heavy objects. Moving decedents from racks, lifts, or other surfaces can be extremely dangerous for the workers performing the labor (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005). As such, OSHA recommends the use of mechanical lifts and other load-bearing equipment to help transport decedents whenever possible. Proper lifting techniques should be utilized in the absence of such equipment, and multiple people should be involved in lifting or moving the body to avoid injuries to the workers (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005).


Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2005. Health and Safety Recommendations for Workers Who Handle Human Remains. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 July 2022].

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