Play It Safe to Reduce Bloodborne Pathogen Risks at Work

blood_sharps_June2013_webIf your job includes exposure to blood or other potential infectious materials, awareness of preventive measures and universal precautions are the first step toward safety. Here’s a brief FAQ on bloodborne pathogens (BBP), infectious microorganisms present in blood that cause disease in humans, to help get you up to speed on some of the best precautions.

What are universal precautions?
It’s best to treat all blood and body fluids as if they are infectious. Having the same procedure at all times makes it easier to follow and creates safe habits, so as an employee it’s important to know where these guidelines are in your company and follow them.

Guidelines for universal precautions include:

  • Wearing impervious gloves
  • Wearing gowns, eye protection, and masks as necessary
  • Cleaning areas in contact with body fluids with appropriate cleaning solution, like a 10 to 1 ratio of water and bleach.

What are engineering controls?
Engineering controls are items that isolate or remove BBP from the workplace, such as sharps disposal containers or needleless systems. Prevention is key in limiting exposure to BBP, and using the right equipment can make that easier. Make sure you understand where disposal containers for exposed items are located and what the process is for handling contaminated materials. Use gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks accordingly and make sure they are of good quality, free of tears, and not expired or worn out.

What are work practice controls?
Having the right equipment or engineering control is great, but the next step is work practices. Work practices are the way you do things to prevent that exposure. This means being aware of and understanding your job duties and procedures in order to conduct yourself in the safest way possible. Consider things like how specimens are handled, how laundry is done, and how cleaning is completed.

For more information on bloodborne pathogens, check out this fact sheet from OSHA.

Have you experienced any innovative practices to prevent the dangers of bloodborne pathogens? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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