Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms in the blood that can cause disease. Common examples include hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There are over 500,000 people infected by one of these diseases annually, but many people don’t show symptoms. People can carry these diseases for extended periods of time while feeling healthy and potentially not even knowing that they’re infected.
Who can be affected by bloodborne pathogens?
First responders, housekeeping personnel, nurses and other healthcare professionals are all at a higher risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. These types of industries require exposure control plans outlining specific job tasks that could result in exposure and required protections. However, everyone needs to be aware of these hazards.
Blood and other bodily fluids containing these diseases are highly contagious to others. Bloodborne pathogens can be transmitted through multiple means:
- Cutting yourself with a sharp object that has been contaminated with infected blood or bodily fluids.
- Getting infected blood or bodily fluids on your skin when you have any type of open wound.
- Getting infected blood or bodily fluids in your eyes, nose or mouth.
Whether you are at risk of exposure due to your job description, or work with others who could become injured, there are several safety measures you should take to protect yourself.
- Treat all blood or bodily fluids as though they could be infected.
- Wash your hands with non-abrasive soap at the end of each work shift and before eating, drinking, handling contacts or applying makeup.
- If a coworker is injured, make as little contact as possible if you are not trained in first aid.
- If the injured worker is bleeding, put on a pair of leak-proof gloves before helping.
- After an incident, do not access the area until it has been properly cleaned.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, eye protection and masks any time you’re required to do so.
- Inspect your PPE before each use – especially for holes – and report any damaged or worn equipment to your supervisor.
- If you are in the healthcare profession, use engineering controls such as sharps disposal containers and self-sheathing needles. You can view this OSHA fact sheet for more information on handling contaminated sharps.
- If you do have reasonable occupational exposure, you should consider getting the HBV vaccine.
If you are struck by a sharp object or get blood or other potentially infectious materials in your eyes, nose or mouth, flush the area with water. If the material comes into contact with your broken skin, wash the area with soap and water. You should seek medical attention immediately and also report the incident to your employer.
Small to mid-size employers use Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) such as LCR Resource, Inc. to assist them in keeping a safe work place. PEO’s can assist in training staff through toolbox talks and establish safety practices to eliminate potential risk factors. Give us a call to find out more (915) 701-2325
Source: Texas Mutual Insurance Company