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 http://www.osha.gov.

January 6, 2017


Ms. Laurna V. Marika
Director, Body Arts Education Initiative
4346 Augusta Road
Lexington, South Carolina 29073

Dear Ms. Marika:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter. Your letter was referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for an answer to your specific questions regarding the application of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, to the use of reusable microblading tools in the cosmetic tattoo industry. The BBP standard is designed to protect employees from infection by bloodborne pathogens. [29 CFR 1910.1030(a) and (b)]. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. For clarification, your specific concerns are paraphrased below, followed by OSHA's responses.

Background: Microblading is a technique for the application of permanent cosmetic eyebrow tattooing. The technique creates hair strokes with a manual device with a tightly soldered needle grouping used to insert pigments under the skin. These manual devices are available as either a disposable tool or a tool with reusable handles that allow the worker to replace used microblades with new ones.

Question 1: Would the removal of contaminated microblades from a reusable microblade tool place the employee at greater risk of sharps injuries than a single-use, disposable microblade tool?

Response: Unless the reusable tool has engineered sharps injury protections, it would very likely create a greater hazard than single-use tools, due to the increased manipulation of the used blade that would be required of users. OSHA's BBP standard requires that employers use engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (as defined in the standard) to the lowest feasible extent in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(i)]  [See also, OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-069Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens, paragraph XIII.D.2]. In particular, the BBP standard prohibits the bending, recapping, or removal of a contaminated needle or other contaminated sharp [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii)(A)]. The standard provides an exception where an, "employer can demonstrate that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure." As you explained in your letter, there are commercially available, single-use, disposable microblade tools that reduce the handling of a contaminated microblade. Therefore, this exception does not apply. It should be noted, however, that the single-use tools you discussed in your letter are not without potential sharps hazards. Users must be trained to use them properly and to immediately dispose of used microblades in sharps containers that meet the requirements of paragraphs 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii) and 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2).

Question 2: Would the use of a secondary tool for microblade removal, such as pliers or similar, be acceptable?

Response: No. As explained in the response in question 1, the BBP standard strictly prohibits removal of contaminated sharps unless the employer can demonstrate that no alternative is feasible or that such actions are required by the permanent cosmetic application procedure. Your letter did not describe a scenario that meets either of these exceptions.

Question 3: Would the use of double-headed, manual microblade tools place the employer at greater risk due to the exposed secondary microblade placement?

Response: Yes. As we similarly replied to your first question, unless the double-headed tool has engineered sharps injury protections, the device could expose the worker to an additional hazard from a second contaminated microblade.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.



Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs