Bloodborne Pathogens: Questions and Answers

Revision 12/05 On December 6, 1991, OSHA issued the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens standard, §1910.1030. This standard is designed to protect workers in the health care and related occupations from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and HBV.

Through its enactment, OSHA received numerous questions regarding how to implement the provisions of the standard. The following information provides answers to many of those questions; however, it is not intended to be used as a substitute for the standard’s requirements. Please refer to §1910.1030 for the complete text.


Q. Who is covered by the standard?

A. The standard applies to all employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).

  • Occupational exposure is defined as “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from the performance of the employees duties.”

  • Blood is defined as human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood.

  • OPIM is defined as the following human body fluids: saliva in dental procedures, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, pericardial, peritoneal, and amniotic fluids; body fluids visibly contaminated with blood; along with all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; unfixed human tissues or organs (other than intact skin); HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV- containing culture media or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

Q. Will the bloodborne pathogens standard apply to employees in agriculture, maritime, and construction industries?

A. The standard will not apply to agriculture. The standard applies to maritime in shipyards and boatyards (where 29 CFR 1910 applies), in commercial fishing vessels, towboats, barges, tugs and other vessels where OSHA has jurisdiction. However, the standard does not apply to longshoring and marine terminals. The construction industry is not covered by the standard. However, the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act) will be used to enforce bloodborne hazards in construction.

Q. Are volunteers and students covered by the standard?

A. Volunteers and students may be covered by the standard depending on a variety of factors including compensation.

Q. Are physicians who are not employees of the hospital in which they work covered by the standard?

A. Physicians of professional corporations are considered employees of that corporation. The corporation which employs these physicians may be cited by OSHA for violations affecting those physicians. The hospital where the physician practices may also be held responsible as the employer who created or controlled the hazard. Physicians who are sole practitioners or partners are not considered employees under the OSH Act, and therefore, are not covered by the protections of the standard. However, if a non-incorporated physician were to create a hazard to which hospital employees were exposed, it would be consistent with current OSHA policy to cite the employer of the exposed employees for failure to provide the protections of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Q. We have employees who are designated to render first aid. Are they covered by the standard?

A. Yes. If employees are trained and designated as responsible for rendering first aid or medical assistance as part of their job duties, they are covered by the protections of the standard. However, OSHA will consider it a de minimis violation — a technical violation carrying no penalties — if employees, who administer first aid as a collateral duty to their routine work assignments, are not offered the pre-exposure hepatitis B vaccination, provided that a number of conditions are met. In these circumstances no citations will be issued.

The de minimis classification for failure to offer hepatitis B vaccination in advance of exposure does not apply to personnel who provide first aid at a first aid station, clinic, or dispensary, or to the health care, emergency response or public safety personnel expected to render first aid in the course of their work.

Exceptions are limited to persons who render first aid only as a collateral duty, responding solely to injuries resulting from workplace incidents, generally at the location where the incident occurred. To merit the de minimis classification, the following conditions also must be met:

  • Reporting procedures must be in place under the exposure control plan to ensure that all first aid incidents involving exposure are reported to the employer before the end of the work shift during which the incident occurs.

  • Reports of first aid incidents must include the names of all first aid providers and a description of the circumstances of the accident, including date and time, as well as a determination of whether an exposure incident, as defined in the standard, has occurred.

  • Exposure reports must be included on a list of such first aid incidents that is readily available to all employees and provided to OSHA upon request.

  • First aid providers must receive training under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard that covers the specifics of the reporting procedures.

  • All first aid providers who render assistance in any situation involving the presence of blood or other potentially infectious materials, regardless of whether or not a specific exposure incident occurs, must have the vaccine made available to them as soon as possible but in no event later than 24 hours after the exposure incident. If an exposure incident as defined in the standard has taken place, other post-exposure follow-up procedures must be initiated immediately, per the requirements of the standard.

Q. Are employees such as housekeepers, maintenance workers, or janitors covered by the standard?

A. Housekeeping workers in health care facilities may have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, as defined by the standard. Individuals who perform housekeeping duties, particularly in patient care and laboratory areas, may perform tasks, such as cleaning blood spills and handling regulated wastes, which constitute occupational exposure.

While OSHA does not generally consider maintenance personnel and janitorial staff employed in non-health care facilities to have occupational exposure, it is the employers responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve occupational exposure. For example, OSHA expects products such as discarded sanitary napkins to be discarded into waste containers which are lined in such a way as to prevent contact with the contents. But at the same time, the employer must determine if employees can come into contact with blood during the normal handling of such products from initial pick-up through disposal in the outgoing trash. If OSHA determines, on a case-by-case basis, that sufficient evidence of reasonably anticipated exposure exists, the employer will be held responsible for providing the protections of 29 CFR 1910.1030 to the employees with occupational exposure.

No comments:

Popular Posts