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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.1030; 1910.1030(d)(2)(i); 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii); 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)(1)

August 19, 2003

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

Dear Mr. Vidra:

Thank you for your April 1, 2003 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs regarding the applicability of OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) to body piercing. Your question is restated below followed by OSHA's response. 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.

Scenario: When performing a body piercing, the needle goes through the tissue at the piercing site and directly into the end of a sterile cork. The cork is then removed to allow for removal of the piercing forcep and insertion of the body jewelry. The cork is replaced on the tip of the needle after removal from the tissue during the jewelry transfer.

Question: Would removal and replacement of the cork onto the contaminated needle be considered recapping under paragraph (d)(2)(vii) of the standard?


The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires the use of engineering and work practice controls [29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(i)]. When an employee has exposure to a contaminated sharp and engineering controls (e.g., sharps with engineered safety features) are not available, hazard control is primarily gained through the implementation of work practices. In order to best protect an employee from an injury with a contaminated needle, minimal manipulation of the needle serves as means of control. Also, paragraph 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(iii)(A)(1) requires the disposal of contaminated sharps in proper sharps containers immediately or as soon as feasible.

Furthermore, 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(vii) states,
(A) Contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps shall not be bent, recapped or removed unless the employer can demonstrate that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure.
(B) Such bending, recapping or needle removal must be accomplished through the use of a mechanical device or a one-handed technique.
Therefore, corking a contaminated needle would be allowed only if no alternative was feasible. As you explain, the cork itself is put in place in order to protect the employee performing the piercing from being stuck with the contaminated end of the piercing needle as the jewelry is pulled through the body. In this case, there may be no alternative, and corking the contaminated needle may be necessary. In an OSHA inspection, the compliance officer would review the exposure control plan for written justification for the recapping supported by reliable evidence. Any permissible recapping must be performed by some method other than the traditional two-handed procedure (e.g., by means of a mechanical device or forceps).

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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