What are OSHA requirements for bloodborne pathogens?

Protecting employees from bloodborne pathogens is paramount in the workplace. These pathogens, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, pose significant health risks. OSHA introduced regulations in 1991 to mitigate these dangers. Adhering to OSHA guidelines is vital. Employees must follow standard precautions like proper handwashing, safe disposal of sharp objects, and bio-waste management. Utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and face shields is crucial. Maintaining good housekeeping practices, especially in medical and laboratory settings, further minimizes risks. In the event of exposure, OSHA training programs outline proper procedures for cleaning, first aid, and injury treatment. Keep your workplace safe by implementing these essential precautions.
six syringes in an apple

Bloodborne pathogens are a dangerous possibility that all employees risk coming in contact with at the workplace. hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are microorganisms that can infect an individual should they come in contact with it. Due to the danger of infection, the occupational safety and health administration set into place certain parameters in 1991 to help mitigate the risk of exposure for employees.

These requirements limit the risk of exposure.  They also eliminate the risk of spreading after exposure. OSHA requirements for bloodborne pathogens have evolved over the years into an excellent defense against the risk of infection. Here is what you need to know.

Implement Standard Precautions

To limit the chance of exposure and infection in the workplace, OSHA has recommended precautions that all employees must follow. 

Employees must properly wash their hands

OSHA implemented proper handwashing as an effective way to minimize the risk of contracting a bloodborne pathogen. The standard for proper washing technique includes scrubbing your hands with soap and water for one minute, followed by 30 seconds of washing with an alcohol-based cleaner.

The safe disposal of sharp objects

Sharp objects such as needles, razor blades, scissors, knives, scalpels, etc., can transmit disease should an individual accidentally cut themselves with the instrument. Dispose of used or unclean sharp objects in safety boxes. These spill-proof containers provide a safe place to store contaminated items for proper disposal.

Proper disposal of bio-waste

Ensure proper disposal of blood, medical waste, fluid spills, or other bodily fluids that carry disease.

The development of general good habits among employees

Good habits include not eating, drinking, inserting contact lenses, smoking, etc. in an area where you may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.

Utilize PPE

Another core element of OSHA requirements for bloodborne pathogens includes the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Proper equipment includes:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Face shield
  • Apron
  • Shoe covers

This equipment not only keeps any bio-waste or fluid spills from entering the body but also from staining your clothing. It’s possible to carry the pathogen with you and become infected through contact later on.

Practice Good Housekeeping

This practice is especially important in the medical field or laboratories. Anywhere where there is a heightened risk of exposure to pathogens. Keeping surfaces wiped clean, disposing of used or infected items and materials, and washing contaminated fabrics are all a part of practicing good housekeeping within an organization. 

What should you do if you are exposed to a bloodborne pathogen?

No matter how many precautions you take, there is still a risk you may be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen. Thankfully, OSHA has implemented some guidelines on what to do if you’ve been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen.

OSHA training programs go over what to do if you need to clean an infected area, flush out mucus membranes, apply basic first aid, and treat injuries such as needlesticks, small cuts, or exposure to eyes or skin.

While there is always a risk of exposure to a bloodborne pathogen in the workplace, there are several precautions to can take to limit your chances of contracting a disease. If you have more questions about how you can implement safety procedures within your company, reach out to a medical expert today on how you can keep yourself and your employees safe from a bloodborne pathogen.

Work Health Solutions

Work Health Solutions

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Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Founder and President of NBS Healthcare Group, with a focus on innovation in healthcare consulting.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.