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.

November 8, 1996

The Honorable Harry Johnston
Palm Beach County Office
1501 Corporate Drive, Suite 250
Boynton Beach, Florida 33426

Dear Congressman Johnston:

This is in reference to your letter dated August 12, document number 18332DF from your constituents, Ms. Paula DeGrace and Ms. Crystal Webster, regarding their concerns about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Final Standard for Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030). Your constituents questioned the application and enforcement of this standard in a barber shop.

The bloodborne pathogens standard addresses the broad issue of occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) and is not meant solely for employees in health care settings. Since there is no population that is risk-free from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infectivity, any employee who has occupational exposure to blood or OPIM is included in the scope of the standard.

It is important to note that "occupational exposure" is a term defined in the standard as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from the performance of an employee's duties. In non-health care industries, for example, employees designated to render first aid or medical assistance as part of their job duties are covered by the standard. This is because it is reasonable to anticipate these designated first aiders will have occupational exposure to blood or OPIM. In a barber shop, the employer must determine if employees have occupational exposure to blood and OPIM. If so, the employer must develop an exposure control plan, and the employees are required to be protected under the bloodborne pathogens standard.

The letter from your constituents relates a temporary, one-time event where a fellow employee suffered nose and ear bleeds. It does not appear that the employer designated these employees to render first aid, nor were the employees directed to clean contaminated surfaces. They were concerned about using the "register, the broom, phone, and bathroom" because the barber with the bleeding problem would not wash his hands. Since the circumstances of the incident indicate that this was a rare one-time event, OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard would not apply. It is unfortunate that this employer did not enforce a simple but effective tool such as handwashing for all his employees. Proper handwashing is an important tool in preventing cross-contamination. OSHA encourages all employers to supervise their workplace and maintain basic good hygiene practices.

Lastly, there is concern expressed for the health and safety of the customers, where they may come into contact with blood or OPIM. OSHA does not have any jurisdiction over public safety. The state health department would have regulations that cover the transmission of HIV or HBV in places of business where the public is served.

We hope this is responsive to your needs and leads to a better understanding of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard.


Joseph Dear
Assistant Secretary