How to Protect Yourself and Your Co-worker from Bloodborne Pathogens in the Workplace

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Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms found in human blood that carry an infection. These infections can be serious, and even fatal, to the person who is exposed. While there are many bloodborne pathogens, the most common ones include hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Bloodborne pathogens training is often required in workplaces to protect employees from exposure to these dangerous diseases.

How Does Contact with a Bloodborne Pathogens Occur?

There are two ways that a person can be exposed to a blood borne pathogen in the workplace. The first is through a percutaneous injury where a sharp object containing the pathogen cuts through the skin and contaminates the person. The second is a through a mucocutaneous injury where a person has contact with an infected co-worker's blood, tissue or other bodily fluid. 

Ways to Prevent Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure

Universal precautions are the first line of defense against exposure to bloodborne pathogens. These precautions are actions taken on the assumption that anybody could be a carrier and, therefore, includes standard safety measures such as gloves, masks and gowns.

Beyond universal precautions, OSHA requires that certain actions be carried out in the workplace to avoid exposure. Some of these include:

  • Clear signs and labels must be placed on anything that contains a potential hazard.
  • An Exposure Control Plan must be in place on how to minimize blood borne pathogen exposure.
  • A very specific cleaning regimen is expected by OSHA. This includes the use of a 10% bleach solution, or other qualifying product. It also addresses appropriate ways to dispose of potentially contaminated waste.
  • OSHA requires that Hepatitis B Vaccinations be provided, free of charge, to all employees who have a job that could put them at risk of blood borne pathogen exposure.
  • Businesses are required to maintain a Post Exposure Response log that keeps track of any exposures that occur on site. This log must determine the level of risk, provide a treatment plan, and provide a process for monitoring the exposed individual.  

Bloodborne Pathogens Certification

While all of OSHA's standards are very important to the limiting of bloodborne pathogen exposure, the one standard that has the greatest long-term impact is teaching employees. The number one way to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens is through knowledge and education. Read more on What is bloodborne pathogens certification in here:

When a worker understands what a bloodborne pathogens is and why it can be life threatening, they are more likely to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their co-workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to provide annual training to their employees on bloodborne pathogens. This bloodborne pathogen training reviews the OSHA standards for safety in this area and ensures that everyone working in a company receives the same information.

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