Bloodborne Pathogens - Worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases (2023)

Worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases

Comparing the universal precautions of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard to the standard precautions and
the transmission-based precautions used by healthcare practitioners for infection control
Bloodborne Pathogens - Worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases (1)

OSHA standards for bloodborne pathogens (BBP, 29 CFR 1910.1030) and personal protective equipment (PPE, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) require employers to protect workers from occupational exposure to infectious agents. The BBP standard applies when workers have occupational exposure to human blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), as defined in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the BBP standard, and requires the use of universal precautions to prevent contact with these materials.1 Adhering to standard and transmission-based precautions in healthcare settings is recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and protects workers from a wider range of infectious disease hazards than the BBP standard.

Employers and workers should be familiar with several key approaches to infection control, including universal precautions, standard precautions and transmission-based precautions.

  • Universal precautions (UP), originally recommended by the CDC in the 1980s, was introduced as an approach to infection control to protect workers from HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens in human blood and certain other body fluids, regardless of a patients’ infection status.2 UP is an approach to infection control in which all human blood and certain human body fluids are treated as if they are known to be infectious. Although the BBP standard incorporates UP, the infection control community no longer uses UP on its own.
  • Standard precautions (SP), introduced in 1996 in the CDC/Healthcare Infection Control and Prevention Advisory Committee’s "1996 Guideline for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals," added additional infection prevention elements to UP in order to protect healthcare workers not only from pathogens in human blood and certain other body fluids, but also pathogens present in body fluids to which UP does not apply. SP includes hand hygiene; the use of certain types of PPE based on anticipated exposure; safe injection practices; and safe management of contaminated equipment and other items in the patient environment. SP is applied to all patients even when they are not known or suspected to be infectious.
  • Transmission-based precautions (TBP) for contact-, droplet-, and airborne-transmissible diseases augment SP with additional controls to interrupt the route(s) of transmission that may not be completely interrupted using SP alone.3 The different types of TBP are applied based on what is known or suspected about a patient’s infection.

The BBP standard requires the use of UP, and extends UP to protect workers against pathogens found in saliva during dental procedures and body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids (e.g., vomit mixed with blood).

During recent outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, other body fluids to which UP and the BBP standard do not apply have been identified as potential sources of worker exposures and infections. For example, the CDC identified contact with urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and breast milk as potential sources of Ebola virus exposure.4, 5 Studies also found that urine of individuals with Zika can contain high concentrations of infectious virus that could persist in urine longer than it is detectable in serum, a component of blood.6, 7 (Note that exposure to urine has not been a recognized cause of Zika transmission.)

By using SP in healthcare settings, additional protection is provided by expanding UP to protect workers where UP and the BBP standard do not apply. For example, SP applies, without limitation, to urine, feces, nasal secretions, sputum, vomit, and other body fluids that may be potential sources of worker exposure to infectious agents. SP assumes that every person is potentially infected or colonized with an organism that could be transmitted in the healthcare setting. Since SP was developed to integrate principles of UP and body substance isolation,8 the infection prevention and control methods used under SP encompass what employers should already be implementing to protect workers against exposures under the BBP standard and its requirements for use of UP. Other OSHA requirements, such as the PPE standards (see 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) and Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause, of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 USC 654, also may apply.9

(Video) Determining Bloodborne Pathogens Occupational Exposure

The following tables highlight key distinctions among UP as originally written, the BBP standard (which incorporates UP), and SP. Table 1 outlines the body fluids and other materials to which each applies.

Table 1. Body fluids to which UP, the BBP standard, and SP apply

Exposure to…

Covered by

(as originally defined)



Vaginal secretions2
Cerebrospinal fluid2
Synovial fluid2
Pleural fluid2
Pericardial fluid2
Peritoneal fluid2
Amniotic fluid2
Saliva in dental procedures2
Any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood2
All body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids210
Nasal secretion11
Breast milk11
Saliva, other than in dental procedures11

Table 2 compares selected controls, actions and other measures for the protection of workers against exposure to blood and OPIM and for the protection of workers against exposure to material that is not blood or OPIM. Note that Table 2 discusses only selected provisions of the BBP standard, as well as only selected elements of SP and TBP, and is not intended to describe all provisions with which employers may need to comply. The General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and additional OSHA standards, including those for personal protective equipment in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I, also may apply.

Table 2. Selected elements of infection prevention and control under BBP, SP, and TBP

Control, action or other measure

To protect workers against exposure to...

Blood and OPIM1Material that is not blood or OPIM, including body fluids not covered under OPIM (e.g., urine6 and feces)
Blood and body fluid precautions for all patients, regardless of infection statusBBP, SPSP
Exposure control plan and required elements thereof12BBP
Patient isolation/placementTBPTBP
Hand hygieneBBP, SPSP
Safe injection practicesBBP, SPSP
Safe sharps management/disposalBBP, SPSP
Prohibiting eating, drinking, smoking, or application of cosmetics or lip balm and handling of contact lenses in areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure13BBP
Separating food and drink from areas where blood and OPIM are present13BBP
Prohibiting mouth pipetting and suctioning of blood or OPIM13BBP
Safe specimen storage, packaging, shipment13BBP
PPE – Gloves, gowns, masks, eye protection (e.g., goggles), face shieldsBBP,14 SP, TBPSP, TBP
PPE – Aprons and other protective body clothingBBP, TBPTBP
PPE – Surgical capsBBP, TBPTBP
PPE – Shoe/boot coversBBP, TBPTBP
PPE – N95 or higher respirators for aerosol-generating procedures on patients with suspected or proven infections transmitted by respiratory aerosolsSP, TBPSP, TBP
PPE – Any additional appropriate equipment to prevent blood or other potentially infectious materials to pass through to or reach the employee's work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used. See 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(3)(i).BBP
PPE – Any additional appropriate equipment (i.e., not specifically listed already) to protect workers against transmission of infectious agentsTBPTBP
Housekeeping and environmental control proceduresBBP, SPSP
  • Safe waste management13
  • Safe laundry management
  • Soiled patient-care equipment management
Post exposure evaluation and follow-up after occupational exposure to a bloodborne pathogen(s)15BBP
(Video) Workplace precautions against bloodborne pathogens
Worker Training

Employers always should train workers about sources of infectious agent exposure and appropriate precautions for preventing infections. Two of the relevant OSHA standards requiring training are those for PPE and BBP. Under the PPE standards, employers must provide training to workers required to use PPE, including training on what equipment is necessary, when and how they must use the equipment, and how to dispose of the equipment. In addition, where workers are exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials, employers must provide the training required by the BBP standard, including information about how to recognize tasks that may involve exposure and the methods to reduce exposure, including appropriate engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.

Additional Resources

1 "Other Potentially Infectious Materials," as defined in the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030(b)), means:

  1. The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids;
  2. Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and
  3. HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

2 The CDC initially defined "universal precautions" as applying to blood and other body fluids containing visible blood. See: CDC (1988). "Update: Universal precautions for prevention of transmission of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, and other bloodborne pathogens in health-care settings. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 37(24): 377-82, 87-8." OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies universal precautions to the prevention of contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). See footnote 1 for additional information about OPIM.

3 For additional information about transmission-based precautions for specific infectious agents, see "Part III: Precaution to Prevent Transmission of Infectious Agents" and "Appendix A: Type and Duration of Precautions Recommended for Selected Infections and Conditions" of the HICPAC "2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings."

(Video) Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure and Personal Protection

4 Dixon, M. G., & Schafer, I. J. (2014). Ebola viral disease outbreak—West Africa, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 63(25), 548-51.

5 Cardile, A. P., Murray, C. K., Littell, C. T., Shah, N. J., Fandre, M. N., Drinkwater, D. C., ... & Vento, T. J. (2015). Monitoring exposure to Ebola and health of US military personnel deployed in support of Ebola control efforts—Liberia, October 25, 2014–February 27, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 64, 690-4.

6 Although an infectious dose or ID50 of Zika virus is not known, urine of Zika patients is known to have significant viral load. For example, Fourcade et al. (2016) detected as much as 74,000 copies of viral RNA per mL of urine in a Zika-infected male and as much as 5,550 copies/mL in a Zika-infected female. See: Fourcade, C., Mansuya, J. M., Dutertre, M., Delpech, M., Marchou, B., Delobel, P., ... & Martin-Blondel, G. (2016). Viral load kinetics of Zika virus in plasma, urine and saliva in a couple returning from Martinique, French West Indies. Journal of Clinical Virology, 82: 1-4.

7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2016). Interim Guidance for Zika Virus Testing of Urine — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 65.

8 Body substance isolation focused on the isolation of all moist and potentially infectious body substances (blood, feces, urine, sputum, saliva, wound drainage, and other body fluids) from all patients, regardless of their presumed infection status, primarily through the use of gloves.

9 OSHA is considering the promulgation of an infectious diseases standard to supplement the infection control requirements of the BBP standard. This new standard would require, among other things, the use of SP and TBP when healthcare and healthcare support workers have occupational exposure to sources of infectious agents.

(Video) Bloodborne Pathogens Safety Training

10 UP as originally defined by CDC does not necessarily apply in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; OSHA’s BBP standard expanded application of UP under the standard to include such situations.

11 Under the category "Any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood," UP and the BBP standard would apply when there is visible contamination of these fluids with blood.

12 OSHA recommends that employers develop and implement exposure control plans for all types of infectious agents.

13 OSHA recommends that employers implement this control for all types of infectious agents.

14 Paragraph (d)(3)(ix) of the BBP standard requires gloves to be worn when it can be reasonably anticipated that the employee may have hand contact with mucous membranes, non-intact skin, and certain other potential sources of exposure, in addition to blood and other potentially infectious materials covered under the standard.

15 OSHA recommends implementing post exposure evaluation and follow-up for all types of infectious agents.

(Video) Protecting Patients and Health Workers from Bloodborne Disease


Bloodborne Pathogens - Worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases? ›

Employers must conduct a risk assessment of the worksite hazards, identify potential exposures and assign PPE accordingly. Basic PPE, including fitted gloves, masks, and gowns, should be readily available and worn whenever there is potential for contact with bodily fluids and contaminated equipment.

What are worker protections against occupational exposure to infectious diseases? ›

The Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) and CDC's recommended standard precautions both include personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns, masks, eye protection (e.g., goggles), and face shields, to protect workers from exposure to infectious diseases.

What is the purpose of the bloodborne pathogen standard to protect employees from occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens? ›

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Regulation to reduce or eliminate the possibility of an employee contracting any of a series of diseases that are spread through blood or other potentially infectious materials.

Which set of guidelines is designed to protect workers with occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens? ›

Universal precautions are a standard set of guidelines to prevent the transmission of bloodborne pathogens from exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). This activity reviews universal precautions and highlights the role of the interprofessional team in their application.

What is the OSHA regulation for bloodborne pathogens? ›

What is the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard? OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) as amended pursuant to the 2000 Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, is a regulation that prescribes safeguards to protect workers against health hazards related to bloodborne pathogens.

Which 3 OSHA standards are in place to protect workers against infectious agents? ›

These include OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) which provides protection of workers from exposures to blood and body fluids that may contain bloodborne infectious agents; OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment standard (29 CFR 1910.132) and Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) which ...

What disease does OSHA's Bloodborne pathogens Standard protect healthcare workers from? ›

These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries may expose workers to bloodborne pathogens.

What does oshas bloodborne pathogens standard require of employees? ›

Employers must ensure that their workers receive regular training that covers all elements of the standard including, but not limited to: information on bloodborne pathogens and dis- eases, methods used to control occupational exposure, hepatitis B vaccine, and medical eval- uation and post-exposure follow-up ...

What are 4 methods of compliance to bloodborne pathogens standards? ›

These include the use of Universal Precautions, Engineering Controls, Work Practice Controls, PPE, and Housekeeping Procedures.

What is occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens OSHA standard? ›

The bloodborne pathogens standard requires that the employer make the determination of which jobs and/or tasks involve occupational exposure. Occupational exposure is defined as reasonably anticipated exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material as the result of performing one's job duties.

What are the three primary bloodborne pathogens employees must be aware of due to occupational exposure? ›

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease and are present in human blood. They include but are not limited to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Does the OSHA Bloodborne pathogens Standard require an exposure control plan? ›

Reply #2: OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard requires employers to review and update the Exposure Control Plan (ECP) at least annually [29 CFR 1910.1030(c)(1)(iv)], even those who currently use appropriate safety devices.

Is training on bloodborne pathogens required by OSHA for employees who risk occupational exposure? ›

Par. 1-201(d). Under OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard, employers having employees with exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must train employees annually regardless of the employees' prior training or education.

What are the 5 steps of an exposure control plan? ›

Contact the Office of Risk Management for questions.
  • Step 1: Required Personal Protective Equipment. ...
  • Step 2: Equipment. ...
  • Step 3: Decontamination Procedures. ...
  • Step 4: Disposal. ...
  • Step 5: Decontaminate Re-useable Equipment. ...
  • Step 6: Wash Your Hands.

What is a bloodborne pathogens written exposure control plan? ›

An Exposure Control Plan is the focal point of any bloodborne pathogens exposure prevention program. It details in writing your plan for reducing exposures to blood and explains what steps to take if an exposure occurs. The plan specifies all steps taken your facility to protect your workers.

What four things does OSHA provide to ensure workers protection? ›

“To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in ...

What precautions should be taken when working with patients with infectious diseases? ›

Standard Precautions
  • Hand hygiene.
  • Use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, eyewear).
  • Respiratory hygiene / cough etiquette.
  • Sharps safety (engineering and work practice controls).
  • Safe injection practices (i.e., aseptic technique for parenteral medications).
  • Sterile instruments and devices.

What types of PPE are required to reduce the exposure and provide worker protection? ›

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs) hard hats, respirators and full body suits.


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