Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms that can spread from a sick person to others through exposure to blood and body fluids.

Examples include:

  • Hepatitis B and C virus
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

These pathogens can cause debilitating health issues and possibly death.

Examples where bloodborne pathogens become a danger at work include:

  • Needlesticks from used needles
  • Splashes of infected body fluids into the eyes, nose, mouth, or onto broken skin.
  • Cuts from contaminated sharps.

Employers must protect employees potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens while performing their job.


Getting Started

Identify employees and work tasks with the potential to expose workers to blood, contaminated needles, or other potentially infectious materials.
Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) are body fluids and tissue that can contain bloodborne pathogens.

Tasks that could involve exposure include:

  • Taking out trash that may contain sharps or needles.
  • Picking up or throwing away used needles.
  • Handling laundry that may have blood, other potentially infectious materials on it, or that may contain sharps or needles.
  • Surgeries, biopsies, and dental examinations
  • Giving injectable medicines

Avoid handling blood, OPIM, or contaminated items. If these must be handled have a procedure on how to do it safely and provide the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Write an Exposure Control Plan that identifies the jobs with possible exposure to blood or OPIM and explains the protective measures in place to reduce or eliminate the dangers of the exposures identified.

Train employees about bloodborne pathogen exposures so they are informed about the dangers and how to stay safe.
Make hepatitis B vaccinations available to employees at no cost.

Use work practices controls, personal protective equipment, or other methods to protect employees who have on-the-job exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Requirements & Policies

Summary of Requirements

The bloodborne pathogens standard applies if you have employees who could have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), even if no actual exposure incidents (e.g., needlesticks or cuts) have yet occurred.
In general, the rule requires covered employers to:

  • Develop and implement a written exposure control plan that includes a written determination of the employees with the potential for BBP exposure.
  • Train exposed employees and maintain a record of that training.
  • Provide Hepatitis B vaccinations to employees.
  • Avoid handling BBP and contaminated items, when feasible -- if that’s not possible:
    • Ensure the use of feasible controls, like tongs or magnetic grabbers, to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure.
    • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment and ensure it is properly used and maintained.

When dealing with contaminated items:

  • Properly and safely handle regulated waste, including contaminated needles and sharps.
  • Handle contaminated laundry properly and safely
  • Make sure contaminated items and waste are appropriately labeled

Ensure the worksite is clean and sanitary and employees wash their hands.

If CPR or first aid may be required, ensure resuscitator devices are available.

Should an exposure incident with a BBP occur to an employee, immediate medical care, including post exposure preventative treatments, must be made available per requirements.
Review the bloodborne pathogens program and exposure incidents annually. Include employees in the review and selection of safer medical devices.

L&I’s safety and health consultants can help you understand how to apply this rule to your workplace.


Associated Rules

L&I procedures, enforcement guidance, and explanatory interpretations

Training & Resources

Meeting Workplace Safety & Health Requirements

You can use these materials to help you meet specific requirements in L&I Safety & Health rules.

Employee Training

Tailor these trainings to help meet the training requirements of the rule.

Sample Forms

Sample Written Program

General Resources

Industry Specific Resources

For topic-specific information, see also:

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