A bloodborne pathogen is a disease-causing microorganism that is present in human blood and is capable of causing disease in humans. These include, but are not limited to, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Bloodborne Pathogens

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Health care personnel (e.g., physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists and emergency medical technicians) are routinely at risk of infection with bloodborne pathogens as a result of contact with human blood and other potentially infectious material while performing their job duties. Also at increased risk are law enforcement officers and prison personnel working in direct contact with suspects and inmates housed in correctional institutions, especially when stepping in to control a violent situation. These are but some of the job classifications that are considered to have occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials.

What is meant by "other potentially infectious materials?"

  1. The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids;

  2. Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and

  3. HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

What is meant by "occupational exposure?"

"Occupational exposure" means reasonably anticipated contact with skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral (skin piercing) contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties. Occupational exposure includes primary or collateral job duties to provide first aid medical assistance. It does not include Good Samaritan acts of first aid and CPR.

What are the hazards associated with occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials?

Infection with bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and HBV can result in serious illness or death.

What can I do to protect myself?

Use personal protective equipment, such as surgical gloves, face masks and fluid resistant gowns, when performing job duties where contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials is anticipated. Resuscitator mouthpieces should be used when performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with assisted breathing by mouth to prevent direct contact with blood that may be present in the mouth of the victim. In addition, be sure that you have received the hepatitis B vaccine series to avoid becoming infected if stuck by a contaminated needle.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

This example bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan and PPE hazard assessment can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual workplace. Employers are required to perform a workplace hazard analysis to determine what personal protective equipment is necessary to protect employees from continued exposure to identified hazards.

Training and Outreach Services

PowerPoint presentations on bloodborne pathogenscollateral first aid and personal protective equipment can an be downloaded and modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. In addition, there is a pre-recorded webinar on bloodborne pathogens which can be accessed at any time. 

In addition, the edhttps://www.labor.nc.gov/osh/osh-presentations/bloodborne-pathogens-pre…, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

The A-Z safety and health topics pages on personal protective equipmentrecording and reporting, and eyewash stations and emergency showers can provide additional resource information.

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply to occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens?

OSH has adopted the following standard for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry


In addition, OSH has added the following state-specific rule to apply the bloodborne pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, to construction:

Other standards that may apply to bloodborne pathogens exposure:


  • 29 CFR 1904.8 - recording criteria for needlestick and sharp injuries - general industry and construction

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Compliance Documents

Industry Guides


Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.