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.

April 15, 1996

[Name Withheld]

Dear [Name Withheld]:

This is in response to your letter of January 9, addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the potential for the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from contact with urine specimens during handling and transport.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, lists a number of body fluids, in addition to blood, that are reasonably likely to transmit bloodborne pathogens. OSHA provides the basis for including the body fluids listed in the June 1988 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines (MMWR, Volume 37, Number 24, 1988), under the definition of "other potentially infectious materials" at page 64102 in the Federal Register, Vol. 56, No. 235, published December 6, 1991. Under these guidelines, urine is not classified as a body fluid that could reasonably transmit bloodborne pathogens. In order for urine to be classified as potentially infectious, blood must be visibly present or the presence of blood reasonably anticipated due to the patient having a medical condition that would lead to blood in the urine.

Under section 1910.1030(d)(2)(xiii), OSHA requires that "specimens of blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be placed in a container which prevents leakage during collection, handling, processing, storage, transport, or shipment." Therefore, if test tubes are used to transport blood, then the test tubes must be capable of preventing leakage during transport. Urine that does not contain visible blood would not be regulated under this standard and would not be required to be placed in containers that prevent leakage.

The bloodborne pathogens standard is designed to protect the nation's workers, particularly healthcare workers, from exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and other bloodborne pathogens. OSHA believes that all potential sources of bloodborne pathogens are covered under this standard and that healthcare workers, such as yourself, are adequately protected from bloodborne pathogens.

We appreciate your interest in occupational safety and health and hope this clarification is responsive to your needs. If you have any additional questions, please call at (202) 219-8036.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs