With the staffing demand for professional Healthcare employees on the rise comes possible unfamiliar injury and wellness risks associated with the positions. The risk of bloodborne pathogens and the need for needlestick prevention is very important to keep our Healthcare employees safe and provide them with a safe workplace.
What are bloodborne pathogens? They are infectious microorganisms present in blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens are at risk for serious or life-threatening illnesses.
What Can be Done to Control Exposure?
Per U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): To reduce or eliminate the hazards of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, an employer must implement an exposure control plan for the worksite with details on employee protection measures. The plan must also describe how an employer will use engineering and work practice controls, personal protective clothing and equipment, employee training, medical surveillance, hepatitis B vaccinations, and other provisions as required by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). Engineering controls are the primary means of eliminating or minimizing employee exposure and include the use of safer medical devices, such as needleless devices, shielded needle devices, and plastic capillary tubes.
- What is occupation exposure? Contact with blood that may result from the performance of an employee duties
- What is an exposure incident? A specific contact with blood or OPIM (other potentially infectious materials) that is capable of transmitting a bloodborne disease.
- If you are exposed to potentially infectious material(s), wash the exposed area with soap and water. If the infectious material was splashed in your eyes, nose or mouth, flush the affected are with water or saline. Report the exposure to a supervisor immediately.
For more information on handling sharp objects and needlesticks, please review OSHA Fact Sheet: Protecting Yourself When Handling Contaminated Sharps.
According to OSHA, approximately 5.6 million workers in health care and other facilities are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Employer responsibility: employers are required to adhere to all OSHA standards and provide training to employees that could be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
Employee responsibility: employees are required to take the bloodborne pathogen training, and follow all procedures related to the handling of potentially infectious material.
Safeguards: OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Fact Sheet prescribes safeguards to protect workers against the health hazards from exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials, and to reduce their risk from this exposure.
Who is covered by the standard?
- All employees who may face contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials while performing the duties of their job are covered by the bloodborne pathogens standard.
- “Good Samaritan” acts such as assisting a co-worker with a nosebleed would not be considered occupational exposure.
- How does exposure occur? Exposure can occur as the result of a needlestick, a cut form a sharp object, or contact of mucous membranes (for example the eye, nose, mouth).
- Treat all human blood and body fluids as if they are infectious.