What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious organisms found in human blood that can cause disease (illness) in other humans if they are directly exposed. The most common of these pathogens include: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Exposures often occur through needlestick or other sharps-related injuries in the workplace.
Who’s at Risk for Exposure?
Workers that are most at risk are those whom we might expect to come into contact with human blood or other body fluids out of the course of their regular work: healthcare personnel and first responders. However, there are several other professions who may inadvertently come into contact with needles/sharps or blood or body fluids out of the course of their work, including, but not limited to: hotel workers and housekeepers, plumbers, refuse disposal workers, and maintenance staff.
What can we do to Eliminate or Limit Exposure to Employees?
In order to reduce or eliminate the risk for employer exposure to bloodborne pathogens, employers are required to implement an exposure control plan specific to each worksite that details measures to protect employees. The plan must include the following:
- Work practice control measures (ie visualizing an area, such as under a bed, before reaching underneath OR not trying to recap needles).
- Implementation of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including, not limited to: gloves, safety goggles, closed toe shoes, etc
- Employee bloodborne pathogen training at a frequency determined by federal or each state’s OSHA BBP standards.
- Offering recommended medical surveillance which may include Hepatitis B vaccines.
What do we do in the Event of a BBP Exposure?
If an employee is stuck by a needle or other sharp or potentially infectious materials, clean the area appropriately:
- Mucus membrane (ie splash to the eyes) immediately flood the eye with water for 15 minutes.
- Non-mucus membrane wound, wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes.
Report the incident to the employer and seek immediate medical attention per the employer’s BBP protocol.
Additional BBP Exposure Control Resources:
- OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030
- OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen and Needlestick Prevention: https://www.osha.gov/bloodborne-pathogens/resources