Bloodborne Pathogens: What OSHA Says You Must Do

OSHA has specific requirements for protecting workers from bloodborne pathogen exposures … and it’s not only for healthcare workers. Here’s a summary, and a highly recommended tool, to meet the agency’s training requirement.

Yesterday’s Advisor began a discussion of risks faced by the nation’s 13.5 million healthcare workers and highlighted some strategies employers are using to reduce those risks.

One of the most significant risks comes from bloodborne pathogens … germs carried in an infected individual’s blood and other body fluids. Employees coming into contact with these fluids can be hit with serious maladies, including hepatitis B and HIV-AIDS. In one recent year, nearly 600,000 workers were contaminated.

Employees teach themselves about bloodborne pathogens, as demanded by OSHA’s standard, with BLR’s Interactive CD Course: Bloodborne Pathogens program. Try it at no cost or risk. Click for details.

This risk is not limited to healthcare workers. Police and firefighters run it. So do laundry and sanitation workers who deal with objects used by sick people. Mortuary workers share the danger. And even employees not in those fields—someone trying to help an injured co-worker, for example—can end up being exposed to bloodborne diseases.

For these reasons, OHSA has a specific standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, to protect workers from the risk of bloodborne pathogens. Here are the responsibilities it imposes on employers, wherever there is a risk of exposure:

Create an Exposure Control Plan (ECP). This plan must detail all the possible situations on the job that could transfer pathogens, describe how these risks will be communicated to employees, list methods of compliance in reducing the risk and a process to handle and later investigate incidents, and provide a means of recordkeeping of both employee training and any exposure incidents.

What’s more, the plan must be reviewed annually, to incorporate new technologies or better methods that have been created to reduce the risk. Such measures can dramatically cut risk. When operating room personnel began using a new blunt-tip needle, data from the Health Care Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia showed a 50 percent drop in sharps (needles and scalpels) infection.

Provide the Means of Compliance. At their expense, employers must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate to what the workers do. These usually involve disposable gloves, eye protection, and face masks as pathogens are most readily transmitted through the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth. Additionally, employers need to install “engineering controls” right for the specific jobsite. These include hand washing or antiseptic towelette stations and leakproof, labeled, and puncture-resistant containers to hold contaminated items, particularly sharps. Employers must also offer hepatitis B vaccine to any worker who has suffered an exposure.

Industrial hygienists Vince McLeod and Glenn Ketcham, writing about bloodborne pathogens at, stressed the primacy of engineering controls. “Controls … are always the first means to protect workers,” they wrote.

Recordkeeping. OSHA requires healthcare facilities to keep a “sharps injury log,” noting the type of device causing the injury, in what work area it happened, and an account of how it happened.

Training … the Vital Element

Then, of course, there’s the vital element that brings it all together—training. To this end, we’d like to make you aware of what’s likely the best program available to educate your workers on the risk of bloodborne pathogens exposure and the steps they can take to avoid it. It’s BLR’s Interactive CD Course: Bloodborne Pathogens.

Try this unique, self-directed, self-testing program at no cost or risk. Click for info.

In 80 self-directing, highly interactive slides on a CD, trainees learn such key concepts as Universal Precautions, Other Potentially Infectious Material (OPIM), what PPE is available to protect against infection, when and how to use it, and what to do should an exposure occur.

The material is both informative and engaging. The computer even allows for “hands-on” time, for example, asking trainees to “dress” a typical worker in PPE to fit several situations. To assure learning, users are asked to answer five “knowledge demonstrations” along the way, which will not let them proceed in the course, unless completed successfully.

Workers who’ve used Interactive CD Course: Bloodborne Pathogens have both learned from and enjoyed using it, while its completely self-directed nature freed up their supervisors from standing over them during the training.

The program is available for a 30-day, no-cost (not even return postage), no-risk trial in your workplace. Click here and we’ll be happy to arrange it.