Are Freelance Tattoo Artists Covered by Bloodborne Pathogen Standard?

Bloodborne Pathogen Standard Freelance Tattoo Artist

This short quick reference guide provides guidance on OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard coverage for freelance tattoo artists. 

Freelance / Contract Tattoo Artists

You may have arrived on this page if you are a tattoo studio owner or a freelance’ ‘contract’ tattoo artist; and have been looking for an answer to the question of whether freelance tattoo artists are considered as contractors and as such outside the scope of the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard.

This can be a confusing question. The first component we need to consider is exposure determination – in a tattoo studio or body art environment, this is fairly cut and dried (no pun intended). If an employee works in a tattoo studio they will have exposure risk to bloodborne pathogens via human blood and other body fluids – no question or ambiguity there.

The harder part is deciding if an artist is considered as an employee for the purposes of the standard – or a contractor – and therefore not covered.

Are Freelance Tattoo Artists covered by the BBP Standard?

Bloodborne Pathogen Standard Freelance Tattoo Artist

This question has actually been posed to OSHA and as they do for all inquiries – their reply is publicly available.

Here is the question and the OSHA response:


What are the responsibilities of tattoo parlors under the Bloodborne Pathogen standard to tattoo artists and body piercers working at their establishments? Some parlors regard them as independent contractors.


Concerning your scenario about tattoo artists and body piercers, you should know that the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 only applies to “employment” [29 U.S.C. § 653(a)]. In other words, it covers employees, not individuals who are working only as independent contractors. 

Under Supreme Court precedent a hired party (the tattoo artist or body piercer) is an employee if the hiring party (the tattoo parlor) has the right to control the manner and means by which the product or service is accomplished. Among the factors relevant to this inquiry are the skill(s) required; the source of the instrumentalities and tools; the location of the work; the duration of the relationship between the parties; whether the hiring party has the right to assign additional projects to the hired party; the extent of the hired party’s discretion over when and how long to work; the method of payment; the hired party’s role in hiring and paying assistants; whether the work is part of the regular business of the hiring party; whether the hiring party is in business; the provision of employee benefits; and the tax treatment of the hired party. 

Merely declaring in a contract or otherwise that a hired party is an independent contractor does not automatically make the hired party an independent contractor

If under this test the tattoo artist or body piercer is an employee of the tattoo parlor, the latter is obligated to provide all the protections of the BBP standard to him or her.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the Federal requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.


Thomas Galassi, Director (OSHA)

Our Interpretation

As OSHA stated and we marked in bold above – the tattoo studio owner or employer simply describing the tattoo artist as a ‘contractor’ does not make it so.

If the tattoo artist meets the criteria to be considered an employee then they are covered by the Bloodborne pathogen standard and the studio owner or employer must comply with the standard and provide:

If you are an individual contract or freelance tattoo artist you can take our bloodborne pathogen tattoo training and get OSHA compliant fast.

If you are a tattoo studio owner and need to get your staff bloodborne pathogen certificates check out our discounted online training for bloodborne pathogens Group Training.

To read about ten more suprising occupations that require BBP training check this article.

Note: This document is not intended to cover all OSHA standards that may apply. 

State Plans adopt and enforce their own occupational safety and health standards. This guidance is not training for cleanup and decontamination of Bloodborne Pathogens released as a biological weapon.

This is an informational resource highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements.

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