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Many occupations expose employees to bloodborne pathogens.

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease when transmitted from an infected individual to another individual through blood and certain body fluids.

Bloodborne pathogens are capable of causing serious illness and death. The three most common illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens are:

  1. hepatitis B (HBV),
  2. hepatitis C (HCV), and
  3. acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) from HIV, resulting from or human immunodeficiency virus.

Other commonly recognized pathogens transmitted by body fluids include:

  • West Nile Virus
  • Malaria
  • Syphilis

Bloodborne Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is becoming more common in the healthcare setting and may be transmitted primarily by contact with infected patients or surfaces causing mild to serious illness and even death.

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1. What are the three primary bloodborne pathogens employees must be aware of due to occupational exposure?

a. West Nile Virus, Influenza, and Malaria
b. Hepatitis B, Syphilis, and Malaria
c. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus
d. Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Influenza, and Smallpox

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To Whom Does the Standard Apply?

The standard applies to all employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Workers in many occupations, including first responders, housekeeping personnel in some industries, nurses and other healthcare personnel, all may be at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Injured Worker
Employees who provide first aid as part of their job are required to have training on occupational exposure.
  • Occupational exposure is defined as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from the performance of the employee's duties."
  • Blood is defined as "human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood."
  • Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) means:
    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.

You can find more information on recognizing workplace hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens on OSHA's Hazard Recognition Page.

2. Who is covered by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

a. Only public employees
b. EMTs, Nurses, and Doctors
c. All employees regardless of occupational exposure
d. All employees who have occupational exposure

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Employers are required to implement a formal Bloodborne Pathogens Program (BBP).

The Purpose of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard

The purpose of the standard is to minimize or eliminate occupational exposure to disease-carrying microorganisms or "pathogens" that can be found in human blood and body fluids. To do that, employers are required to implement a formal Bloodborne Pathogens Program (BBP) including a written Exposure Control Plan that details the following actions:

  • Establish an exposure control plan
  • Update the exposure control plan annually
  • Implement the use of universal precautions
  • Identify and use engineering controls
  • Identify and ensure the use of work practice controls
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Make available hepatitis B vaccinations to all workers with occupational exposure
  • Make available post-exposure evaluation and follow-up
  • Use labels and signs to communicate hazards
  • Provide information and training to workers
  • Maintain worker medical and training records

We will be covering each of these topics in the remaining course modules.

3. What is the purpose of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

a. To ensure companies train all employees
b. To minimize or eliminate occupational exposure
c. To increase awareness of occupational pathogens
d. To eliminate all exposure to pathogens

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Stanley is an employee for a small manufacturing company. One of Stanley's job responsibilities is to respond to medical emergencies that might happen in the warehouse. Stanley has worked for his employer for five years and has never had to respond to an emergency.

Does Stanley still need to receive annual bloodborne pathogens training?


The frequency in which an employee is exposed to potential bloodborne pathogens is not the standard used to determine the need for training. Because the employer can reasonably anticipate that Stanley might be exposed to bloodborne pathogens as an employee, he must receive annual training. Neither Stanley nor his employer can predict when he might need to provide emergency medical care.

4. The need for bloodborne pathogens training depends on _____.

a. frequency of exposure
b. duration of exposure
c. reasonable anticipation
d. currency of training

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