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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1030(a); 1910.1030(c)(2); 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii); 1910.1030

July 29, 2002

David A. Vidra, CLPN, MA
President, Health Educators, Inc.
2710 Detroit Avenue
Lower Level
Cleveland, OH 44113

Dear Mr. Vidra:

Thank you for your March 1, 2002 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the applicability of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, to the tattoo and piercing industry. We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter, however, we do thank you for your continued correspondence over the phone. Your professional and practical experience has given us insight andperspective into the hazards unique to this industry of artisans. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretations only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your scenario and question are outlined below, followed by OSHA's response.

Scenario: Instead of disposing of the single-use sharp device into a regulated sharps container immediately upon completion of the tattoo procedure, it is not uncommon for manytattoo artists to re-sterilize the entire device in order to break off the needle configuration so that they may re-use the bar itself. This procedure requires the "breaking, bending, or shearing" of a sharp, which is expressly prohibited by OSHA. The justification for this practice is generally related to lower cost, when the cost of a single needle bar averages between .01 and .30 cents. It is our opinion that the re-processing of the used needle configuration denotes reusability, however, terminal sterilization is not ensured.

Question: How does the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard apply to this practice?

Response: The scope and application of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is dependent on reasonably anticipated occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Since tattooing and piercing generate blood, workers in this industry would fall under the scope of the standard.

Proper implementation of a bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan, infection control procedures, and standard precautions protect not only workers from potential exposure, but clients, as well.

The standard requires the use of engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood and OPIM. Where occupational exposure remains after the institution of these controls, personal protective equipment must also be used.

Understandably, engineering controls for tattoo needles may not be commercially available, therefore the use of proper and safe work practices carries a higher level of importance. Safe work practices would include the immediate disposal of contaminated needles into an appropriate regulated waste container. Bending, recapping, breaking, and/or shearing contaminated needles require additional manual manipulation, which poses a greater risk of injury. If safer needle devices do become available, an employer must evaluate, select, and implement appropriate devices, based on employee feedback.

Therefore, it is OSHA's position that in the tattooing and piercing industry, proper work practices must be followed, including the immediate disposal and proper containerization of single-use contaminated needles. An employer must also ensure the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, gowns) depending on the types of exposures that may be anticipated (e.g., splashes, splatters, drips). Again, employees with occupational exposure to blood, identified by an employer's exposure determination (29 CFR 1910.1030(c)(2)) must be afforded full coverage of the standard, including, but not limited to: the hepatitis B virus vaccination, post-exposure evaluation and follow-up, and appropriate housekeeping and decontamination procedures.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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