Reducing bloodborne pathogen risks — a little common sense goes a long way
Back to The PIG® Library
Recognizing and reducing bloodborne pathogen risks
Although you may think the risk is low, bloodborne pathogen (BBP) exposure can occur in an industrial setting. Employees who are most at risk for BBP exposure could include your on-site nurses or doctors, first-aid personnel, emergency response personnel, and general maintenance personnel. These employees are the ones most likely to be exposed to blood or other types of body fluids that may contain BBPs such as the Hepatitis B or C virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Many exposures to BBPs are through needlestick injuries in the healthcare field, but BBPs can also be transmitted through body fluids, mucous membranes, and cuts. Since it's up to every employer to ensure that employees are protected from BBP exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a BBP standard that outlines employer responsibilities (29 CFR 1910.1030).
Employees who may be exposed to possible sources of BBPs are required by OSHA to be trained to handle situations in which they may come into contact with such fluids. But before you train, here are three important practices to consider when handling materials contaminated with potential BBPs:
- Consider all sources contaminated – Considering all sources contaminated is the best way to stay safe because it removes all doubt regarding a potential BBP. Even if a body fluid does not contain visible blood, it still could contain BBPs!
- Use Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Employees who may come into contact with BBPs should wear the appropriate PPE to protect them from exposure. The proper type of PPE to be used would ultimately depend on the situation, but the most often used PPE would include gloves, face shields, goggles, and CPR shields.
- Properly handle contaminated waste materials – Cleanup materials and/or clothing that has been contaminated must be handled and disposed of properly to prevent exposures to other employees. Make sure containers that hold wastes contaminated with potential BBPs are clearly marked. In addition, be sure that employees know that they should not put contaminated materials into general waste receptacles. Contaminated waste belongs in a container with a biohazard warning label.
BBP safety really revolves around common sense. Remind employees to avoid putting themselves into situations that they have not been trained to handle. Sometimes to avoid exposure in an emergency, it is best to wait for the appropriate emergency response personnel to arrive. In addition, employees should always keep their hands clean and avoid eating, drinking, or applying makeup where the potential for BBP contamination is high.
To view OSHA's standards and programs regarding BBPs visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/index.html.