Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Freehand" Ear Piercing Clarification

December 8, 2005

Mr. David Vidra, CPLN, MA
Mr. Kris Lachance-Peters
Vice President
Health Educators, Inc.
515 E. Grand River Avenue, Suite F
East Lansing, MI 48823

Dear Mr. Vidra & Mr. Lachance-Peters:

Thank you for your 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 the "freehand" body piercing technique. 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: A "freehand" piercing technique is one where the practitioner uses his or her hands as the piercing instrument instead of piercing forceps. In this procedure, the practitioner's fingers are placed in close proximity to the cutting edge of the needle as it exits the piercing site.

Question: Does OSHA view the practice of "freehand" piercing without the use of forceps and a receiving tool (cork or tube) as safe for the practitioner performing the procedure?

Reply: The practice of "freehand" piercing without the use of forceps or other available engineering and work practice controls to prevent contact with the used end of the piercing needle violates 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(i), an important provision of the bloodborne pathogens standard which requires that engineering and work practice controls shall be used to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.

In a previously published letter of interpretation, OSHA wrote:

"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." [
Vidra, 8/19/03]

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