What Are the OSHA Requirements for Bloodborne Pathogens?

Protecting employees from bloodborne pathogens is paramount in the workplace. These pathogens, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, pose significant health risks. OSHA introduced regulations in 1991 to mitigate these dangers. Adhering to OSHA guidelines is vital. Employees must follow standard precautions like proper handwashing, safe disposal of sharp objects, and bio-waste management. Utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and face shields is crucial. Maintaining good housekeeping practices, especially in medical and laboratory settings, further minimizes risks. In the event of exposure, OSHA training programs outline proper procedures for cleaning, first aid, and injury treatment. Keep your workplace safe by implementing these essential precautions.
six syringes in an apple

Bloodborne pathogens pose a significant risk to healthcare and other high-risk industries, potentially exposing employees to dangerous illnesses. The CDC estimates that over 5.6 million workers are exposed to pathogens like hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To safeguard employees and create healthier workspaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established stringent requirements under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). These regulations seek to minimize the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

OSHA Standards for Bloodborne Pathogens

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal regulatory agency responsible for creating and enforcing safety standards in the American workplace. These standards require employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy working environment. OSHA sets standards for various workplace hazards, including ladders, hazardous materials, and fire hazards. OSHA has also developed a standard that covers bloodborne pathogens, seeking to address the risks associated with exposure.

Exposure Control Plan

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to all organizations with employees who may encounter blood or other infectious materials. This includes healthcare workers, first responders, and laboratory personnel. One of the primary elements of this standard is the development and implementation of an Exposure Control Plan. This plan is a written document that describes the employer’s strategy for minimizing employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens. This document must include a definition of exposure, methods of compliance, exposure procedures, communication protocols, and recordkeeping information. OSHA also recommends taking a universal precautions approach, meaning employees should treat every substance as if it contained a bloodborne pathogen.

Preventative Measures

Beyond the Exposure Control Plan, the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires employers to use preventative and precautionary measures. Employers are required to implement engineering controls to reduce employee exposure to these hazards. Proper handwashing facilities or antiseptics must remain readily available to employees. Employees must clean their hands after removing gloves or other PPE. This prevents potential infection and reduces the likelihood of illness spreading. Employers must also provide disposal units for sharps and other contaminated materials. These boxes should be clearly labeled and only handled by hazardous waste professionals. Employees should not eat, drink, apply lip balm, or change contact lenses near blood or other bodily fluids, as this can lead to possible infection. All blood and other bodily fluids should be kept in clearly marked containers and handled carefully to avoid spilling or splashing.

OSHA requires employers to provide employees with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost to the employee. Studies show that proper PPE management can significantly reduce the spread of infections in a healthcare setting. Equipment like gloves, masks, and gowns help protect employees and promote safety. This equipment should be properly fit-tested and regularly maintained or replaced. OSHA also requires employers to provide comprehensive training on the potential risks for bloodborne pathogens in the workplace, clearly identifying hazards and ensuring employees are aware of the risks.

Post-Exposure Protocols

In addition to preventative measures, OSHA sets regulations for employer responsibilities following an exposure to a bloodborne pathogen. Employers must offer a hepatitis B vaccination to exposed workers at no cost to the employee. These vaccinations are crucial for preventing hepatitis B infections, which can be fatal if not properly managed. After exposure, employers must quickly follow up with the employee, providing a medical evaluation, testing for bloodborne pathogens, and counseling on preventative measures. Employers must also report incidents to OSHA and submit follow-up paperwork.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard seeks to help employers create a workplace that prioritizes employee safety and reduces their risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Compliance with the standard promotes employee health and well-being.

What to Do if Exposed to a Bloodborne Pathogen

No matter how many precautions an organization takes, employees may still come into contact with bloodborne pathogens. OSHA has instituted guidelines for employees regarding what to do after an exposure. Employees should clean the infected area and seek medical attention after exposure. This can prevent long-term damage in the case of infection. Employees should also report the incident to their employer, who can begin the post-exposure protocols.

While there is always a risk of exposure to a bloodborne pathogen in the workplace, there are several precautions organizations can take to promote safety in the workplace. If your organization needs assistance implementing a Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plan, contact an occupational health specialist and learn how to keep yourself and your employees safe from a bloodborne pathogen.

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. We back our quality service with years of experience. We have worked with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small governments, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions about how we can assist you!

Work Health Solutions

Work Health Solutions

About Us

Work Health Solutions is dedicated to preserving a safe work environment and improving existing programs and care for local, regional and national organizations.

Share This Post


Recent Posts

Speak with an Occupational Health Specialist

If you have questions about Work Health Solution's occupational health services or if you need to purchase bulk medical supplies, such as COVID-19 testing kits, please contact us.

Get in Touch

Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
  • Oversaw the regional medical practices in key markets like Oregon and Northern California, ensuring consistent, quality medical care and service delivery.
  • Demonstrated exceptional leadership in building and mentoring a large medical provider team, enhancing team performance and patient care standards.
  • Implemented strategic company policies and protocols, significantly improving center efficiency, clinical quality, and patient experiences.
  • Played a pivotal role in financial planning and identifying growth opportunities for healthcare services, contributing to the organization’s overall success.
  • Served as a primary point of contact for regional employer clients and insurance companies, fostering strong relationships and effective communication.
  • Maintained high medical care and case management standards through diligent supervision, chart audits, and performance metric analysis.

Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
  • Supported U.S. Marines VMFA-323 aboard the USS Nimitz, MACG-38, and VMU-3, demonstrating versatility and leadership in diverse medical environments.
  • Broad interests and significant contributions in global health, corporate medicine, and aerospace medicine, highlighting his multidisciplinary approach.
  • Proven track record as a dynamic leader, well-equipped to face the challenges in a fractional medical directorship role with innovative solutions.

Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.