Bloodborne Pathogens: Tattoo and Body Artists

Tattooing & Bloodborne Pathogens

If you’re a tattoo or body artist, including the performance of piercing and body modification procedures, you probably need body art bloodborne pathogens training, testing, and certification. 

Individuals who work in body art environments are exposed to blood as a daily part of the job, and that puts you at risk of exposure to Hepatitis B and C, HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis, and other bloodborne transmissible bacteria and viruses. 

If you work as a tattoo artist or piercer, you need to know how to protect yourself, your co-workers, and just as importantly, your clients.

But I already know about Bloodborne Pathogens in tattoo studios?

The requirement to undertake bloodborne pathogen certification is a matter of federal law. 

The initial training requirements for the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030 standard were revised on 6.11.2000 when the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was introduced with the aim of better regulating occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Failure to comply with the requirements of the standard can have severe repercussions with fines upwards of $70,000.

Additionally, BBP certification is a required component of getting a tattoo license – so you really need to take it seriously.

Who is covered by the BBP standard?

In general, CFR 1910.1030 applies to all employers whose workers could be exposed to bloodborne pathogens as part of their job. This includes all types of tattoo artists across any style, including cover-up tattoo artists, and permanent makeup artists. It also applies to general workers in any industry that have a risk of exposure including medical staff, and others in the healthcare industry.

Some parts of the regulations are relevant only to those in the healthcare field, for example, ‘safe injection guidelines’, but tattoo and body art studios are required to develop and implement exposure control plans that outline how employees will be protected.

What is covered by the OSHA Bloodborne standard for body art?

An exposure control plan generally includes personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE), work practice controls that reduce the risk of exposure by improving the way work tasks are performed, bloodborne pathogen training for employees, free vaccination programs, and post-exposure requirements.

Currently, 25 US states and two territories operate their own plans that are at least as effective as OSHA standards and in many cases have additional requirements.

In all other states, the federal OSHA law is in effect as the default. This means that specifics can vary from state to state. However, in most cases, either your employer or a qualified outside provider may deliver the entire training, or it may be a blended solution whereby an online course covers the federal OSHA requirements and some or all of the state-specific requirements, backed up by on the job specific training in the studio.

While the specifics vary by state, a bloodborne pathogen certification program should address the following questions in detail:

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are defined as any infectious micro-organism found in human blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Common and well known BBP include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, but there are many others including Malaria, Syphilis, and the Ebola virus.

How are bloodborne pathogens spread?

Bloodborne pathogens are transmitted through infected human blood and other bodily fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions; synovial fluid cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid; peritoneal and amniotic fluid, and saliva.

There are many different transmission methods ranging from sexual contact to mother to child.

Tattoo and body artists are usually most at risk of exposure from incidents such as an accidental puncture from a contaminated needle.

A Bloodborne pathogen can also be transmitted when non-intact or damaged skin comes into contact with mucous membranes or body fluids that have been infected.

Human skin is usually a highly effective barrier as long as it remains unbroken.

Some examples of how bloodborne pathogens can breach the skin include cuts and abrasions, open blisters or sores, and advanced sunburn. It’s also possible to pass along an infection if your eyes, nose, or mouth are exposed to contaminated blood or fluids.

How can we stop infections from bloodborne pathogens in a tattoo studio?

Tattoo and body art studios often set their own guidelines specifically tailored to their unique work environment, so your employer may have specific steps for you to follow in addition to what is covered in a body art bloodborne pathogens training course.

Some examples include:

  • Wearing protective coverings and disposable gloves, 
  • thoroughly washing the hands and other exposed areas as necessary,
  •  disposing and other contaminated materials in biohazard bags.
bloodborne pathogens cells

How can we prevent the spread of bloodborne infections in tattoo studios?

It’s crucial to use a newly prepared disinfectant solution to clean equipment and work surfaces that may have come into contact with infected blood, serum or contaminated substances such as tattoo inks. Disinfectant solutions should consist of about one part bleach to nine parts water. 

It is also essential to scrub footwear, belts, and other leather goods with hot water and a stiff brush. Launder clothes that may have been exposed following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

What do I do if I have been exposed to infected material?

If you are exposed to blood or bodily fluids that may be infected, first wash the area with warm water, then scrub vigorously with more water and soap to remove surface contaminants. If you have an open wound that was exposed, squeeze it slightly to stimulate blood flow and then wash it as above. You must notify your supervisor immediately and then seek emergency medical treatment.

What personal protective equipment do I need to wear to perform body art procedures?

Tattoo artists and others who are reasonably anticipated to come into contact with blood and OPIM should wear a clean, protective layer of clothing at all times. Masks should be worn in addition to eye protection such as goggles or face shields to protect against droplets or spray of blood or other fluids. During the piercing or tattooing procedure, disposable gloves should be worn and must be changed whenever the glove is damaged, the gloves touch anything that has the potential for contamination or the process of tattooing or piercing is interrupted.

How do I handle and dispose of contaminated materials?

All contaminated materials, such as used needles, disposable razors, disposable gloves, clothing, wraps, and bandages, should be disposed of using tong, forceps or other approved equipment and never touched directly. The contaminated material should be placed in a leak-proof container that is easily closable. The container should be labeled or color-coded according to legal requirements, and firmly closed prior to removal.


If you are employed or self-employed as a tattoo or body modification artist, you must undergo body art bloodborne pathogens training online or on-site in compliance with the law and pass a bloodborne pathogen test.

You also need to keep that training updated on a regular basis, depending on the law in your state this is usually on an annual basis. 

Your employer should be able to tell you more about the regulations applicable in your area and what you’ll need to do on the job to comply. With the right training and certification, you’ll have the skills and training to keep yourselves and your clients safe from exposure to bloodborne illnesses.

If you are looking for fast and compliant 100% online bloodborne pathogens tattoo training you can take our body art bloodborne pathogens training right now.

Accessibility Options
Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top