Background | Bloodborne Pathogens

In September 1986, OSHA was petitioned by various unions representing healthcare employees to develop an emergency temporary standard to protect employees from occupational exposure to bloodborne diseases. The agency decided to pursue the development of a Section 6(b) standard and published a proposed rule on May 30, 1989.

The agency also concluded that the risk of contracting the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among members of various occupations within the healthcare sector required an immediate response and therefore issued OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.44, January 19, 1988. That instruction was superseded by CPL 2-2.44A, August 15, 1988; subsequently, CPL 2-2.44B was issued February 27, 1990.

On December 6, 1991, the agency issued its final regulation on occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030). Based on a review of the information in the rulemaking record, OSHA determined that employees face a significant health risk as the result of occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) because they may contain bloodborne pathogens. These pathogens include but are not limited to HBV, which causes hepatitis B; HIV, which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); hepatitis C virus; human T-lymphotrophic virus Type 1; and pathogens causing malaria, syphilis, babesiosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, arboviral infections, relapsing fever, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and viral hemorrhagic fever. The agency further concludes that these hazards can be minimized or eliminated by using a combination of engineering and work practice controls, personal protective clothing and equipment, training, medical surveillance, hepatitis B vaccination, signs and labels, and other provisions. Both the standard and CPL 2-2.44C became effective on March 6, 1992.

On September 9, 1988 OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) on engineering and work practice controls used to eliminate or minimize the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens due to percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps. The responses indicated that safer medical devices along with training are the most effective means of reducing injury rates. A Summar of the comments received in response to the RFI was published in March 1999. On November 5, 1999 CPL 2-2.44D was issued. It incorporated information from the RFI, past interpretations and several CDC guidelines on vaccination and post-exposure prophylaxis.

On November 6, 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was signed into law (Public Law 106-430). It directed OSHA to revise the Bloodborne Pathogens standard to include new examples in the definition of engineering controls; to require that exposure control plans reflect changes in technology that eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens; to require employers to document annually in the exposure control plans consideration and implementation of safer medical devices; to require employers to solicit input from non-managerial employees responsible for direct patient care in the identification, evaluation, and selection of engineering and work practice controls; to document this input in the exposure control plan; and to require certain employers to establish and maintain a log of percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps. OSHA published these revisions on January 18, 2001 with an effective date of April 18, 2001.

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