Dentist working on a patients teeth
Many occupations expose employees to bloodborne pathogens.

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease when transmitted from an infected individual to another individual through blood and certain body fluids.

Bloodborne pathogens are capable of causing serious illness and death. The most common illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens are:.

  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV);
  • Hepatitis C Virus (HCV); and
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Other commonly recognized pathogens transmitted by body fluids include:

  • West Nile Virus
  • Malaria
  • Syphilis

OSHA has determined employers can minimize or even eliminate occupational bloodborne hazards by developing and enforcing a combination of exposure control strategies which work for all bloodborne diseases. It is not enough for an employer to provide bloodborne pathogens training. They must also have a formal exposure control plan documented and implemented.

Training Is Not Enough; An Employer Must Implement A Formal Exposure Control Plan

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1. As part of Kevin's job he is required to provide emergency first aid to employees that become injured or ill while at work. What are the three primary bloodborne pathogens Kevin must be aware of due to occupational exposure?

a. Influenza, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B
b. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
c. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Measles
d. Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Influenza, Measles

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Who is covered by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

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

Injured Worker
Employees who provide first aid as part of their job are required to have training on occupational exposure.
  • 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 employee's duties."
  • Blood is defined as "human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood."
  • Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) 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 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. Who is covered by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

a. Only private sector employees in healthcare settings
b. Designated EMT's and nursing staff
c. Employees who predisposed to infection at work
d. Employees who have occupational exposure to blood or OPIM

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OSHA inspector

What is the purpose of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

The purpose of the standard is to minimize or eliminate occupational exposure to disease-carrying microorganisms or "pathogens" that can be found in human blood and body fluids.

Who must be trained under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

OSHA has mandated annual training is required for all employees with potential occupational exposure. This means if there is a reasonable possibility an employee might be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious bodily fluids, they must receive training to minimize or eliminate their risk to potential exposure.

3. What is the purpose of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

a. To minimize exposure to disease-carrying pathogens found in human blood and body fluids
b. To reduce the risk of exposure to all biological hazards in the workplace
c. To inform employees of the risks associated with exposure to infectious pathogens
d. To decrease the probability of infection from exposure to HIV

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Stanley is an employee for a small manufacturing company. One of Stanley's job responsibilities is to respond to medical emergencies that might happen in the warehouse. Stanley has worked for his employer for five years and has never had to respond to an emergency.

Does Stanley still need to receive annual bloodborne pathogens training?


The frequency in which an employee is exposed to potential bloodborne pathogens is not the standard used to determine the need for training. Because there is a reasonable expectation that Stanley might be exposed to bloodborne pathogens as an employee, he must receive annual training. Neither Stanley nor his employer can predict when he might need to provide emergency medical care.

4. The need for bloodborne pathogens training depends on _____.

a. the frequency of exposure
b. the duration of exposure
c. reasonable anticipation of exposure
d. the currency of training

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