Injuries and Illness

Report All Bloodborne Pathogens Exposures

Exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and HIV can lead to serious illness. Although healthcare workers and emergency first responders are most at risk, any employee can be exposed when giving first aid in the workplace, as well as in certain other situations.

Needlesticks or cuts from sharp objects contaminated with another person’s blood are among the most common means of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. But any contact of the eyes, mouth, nose, or broken skin with blood or other potentially infectious bodily fluids can spread diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

One of the biggest problems with workplace exposures, says NIOSH, is that employees often fail to report the incidents. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers found that nearly half of the medical students surveyed admitted that they did not report needlestick injuries.

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Why Are Employees Reluctant to Report Exposures?

NIOSH says that employees give many reasons for not reporting exposures. For example, they:

  • Do not think they will get an infection from the exposure
  • Think the exposure may have been their fault
  • Were not wearing the proper personal protective equipment
  • Are embarrassed by the exposure incident
  • Think it takes too much time away from work to report
  • Think reporting may result in a negative performance evaluation
  • Fear losing their job
  • Think that wiping blood or other bodily fluids off their skin is sufficient
  • Are not sure whether certain incidents should be considered exposures

Why Should Employees Report All Exposures?

First, says NIOSH, reporting exposures to blood or potentially infectious bodily fluids will help protect your workers, their families, and the public. It allows you to provide appropriate, prompt, medical assessment and treatment.

Second, by documenting exposures, you can identify causes and prevent them from occurring again. This keeps your workers on the job, reducing costs in the long run.

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How Can You Encourage Reporting?

NIOSH urges employers to take these steps:

  • Establish a policy that all potential exposures must be reported.
  • Identify and address issues, workplace culture, or barriers that discourage reporting.
  • Make sure employees know what an exposure is.
  • Explain the risks of infection.
  • Establish an easy-to-use system for reporting and evaluating exposures.
  • Ensure reports are handled promptly and confidentially.
  • Make sure all employees and managers understand the department’s reporting protocol.
  • Cover reporting procedures in the initial and annual bloodborne pathogens training.
  • Regularly remind your workers to promptly report all potential bloodborne pathogens exposures.
  • Assure your employees that reporting an exposure will not affect their job or performance evaluation.
  • Keep a record of exposures. Look for patterns of exposure and seek solutions to prevent future exposures.
  • Show workers how reporting helps prevent future exposures.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about bloodborne pathogens and how you can train your employees to prevent exposures.

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