OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

July 15, 1992

Mr. Jack Hansmann
Director of Technical Services
Mechanical Contractors
Association of America, Inc.
1385 Piccard Drive
Rockville, Maryland 20850-4340

Dear Mr. Hansmann:

This is in response to your letter of June 24, in which you requested clarification concerning the scope of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation, 29 CFR 1910.1030, "Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens". In particular, you requested clarification of the applicability of the standard to employees who perform "maintenance operations" of a construction nature.

As detailed in 29 CFR 1910.12(b), construction work is defined as work for construction, alteration and/or including painting and decorating. It is OSHA's position that maintenance activities are defined as [making or] keeping a structure, fixture or foundation (substrates) in proper condition in a routine, scheduled, or anticipated fashion.

Determination on whether a contractor is engaged in maintenance operations rather than construction activities will be made on the facts obtained during the inspection activity and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

[Note: Additional clarification on this issue is available in the November 18, 2003 letter to Mr. Raymond V. Knobbs (Added 6/14/2004)]

The scenarios as outlined in your correspondence which addressed repair of a malfunctioning mechanical system or re-routing piping for air conditioning to accommodate an alteration to physical space in a health care facility could not be addressed as the situations set forth did not have enough details for us to adequately address these issues.

OSHA believes that those workers who are engaged in maintenance operations and who have potential "occupational exposure" are covered under the bloodborne pathogens standard. "Occupational exposure" is defined as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties."

While trades such as plumbers, pipefitters and others who at times may be engaged in maintenance activities are not generally considered to have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens as defined by the standard, it is the employer's responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve occupational exposure. If OSHA determines, on a case-by-case basis, that sufficient evidence of reasonably anticipated exposure exists, the employer will be held responsible for providing the protection of 29 CFR 1910.1030 to the employees with occupational exposure.

Those employees engaged in construction activities who are occupationally exposed to the hazard of bloodborne pathogens (such as those employees designated as responsible for providing first aid or medical assistance) are afforded protection under Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The General Duty Clause required that each employer provide a place of work which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

We hope this information is responsible to your concerns. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statutes, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements; they instead explain existing requirements and how those requirements apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed herein. From time to time, letters are affected when OSHA updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs