Tagging guns and bloodborne pathogens

Employers: Take action to prevent hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens when employees use tagging guns.

Because of rapid turnover in the retail industry, many new employers, supervisors and employees are unaware of the possible serious hazards from bloodborne pathogens associated with sharing tagging guns when instruments are not disinfected.

Workers using tagging guns in the garment and other associated industries may be covered by health and safety standards that protect workers from the hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens, depending on the individual circumstances of the work. These safety standards are found in Title 8, California Code of Regulations, General Industry Safety Orders section 5193.

Use of tagging guns can result in a worker sustaining a needlestick with a contaminated needle. This happens when one worker accidentally punctures his or her skin with the needle of a tagging gun and another worker using the same gun, with the same needle, sustains the same type of injury.

Under these circumstances, the risk of exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials can be reasonably anticipated.

For this reason, Cal/OSHA believes garment production or processing facilities where the use of tagging guns is regular, sustained, and very frequent, must follow the bloodborne pathogen safety standards laid out in section 5193

In other facilities using tagging guns, such as retail clothing stores, applicability of the standard will depend on individual circumstances. However, if employers at these facilities take simple measures under their injury and illness prevention programs, they can ensure contact with blood is not reasonably anticipated. One way to accomplish this is by assigning employees their own tagging guns, implementing and enforcing a policy that forbids employees from using any tagging gun other than the one assigned to them, and training employees on this policy and the potential health consequences of violating the policy.

Find out more about bloodborne pathogen standards and safety by reading frequently asked questions on the subject.

Workers, do you have questions on bloodborne pathogens? Visit the Department of Industrial Relations' workers' portal for answers.