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Blood-borne Pathogen Awareness in the Workplace

03 Jul 2024 5:35 PM | Terseline Acosta

An occupational hazard for janitorial workers is the risk of exposure to infectious microorganisms and blood-borne pathogens. As the name suggests, these pathogens are found in blood and can cause human diseases. HBV (hepatitis B), a disease that attacks and damages the liver and can lead to cancer, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are examples of pathogens that can be found in human blood. Job assignments in which needles, and sharp materials are found are considered risky to those working in these spaces. Infection occurs when the pathogens enter the mucous membranes through contact with blood and bodily fluids or by coming in contact with broken skin. Employers must implement safety measures to eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens in the workplace. After exposure, safety protocol must be followed by both the employees and the employer, which is why Blood-borne pathogen awareness is of great importance for all parties involved.

In case of accidental exposure, workers should treat the exposed area by flooding it with soap and water followed by the use of a skin disinfectant. After that, immediate reporting to the employer and the employee's doctor is advised. Health monitoring is required, in the search for any symptoms for HIV and HBV. Symptoms for both diseases may appear many years following the exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires documentation from employers, and the employer must maintain a record of the incident for 3 years following exposure.

Workers handling hazardous waste, cleaning surfaces, and doing laundry containing bodily fluids are at risk. Job sites must have written exposure plans that are subjected to a yearly review. Supervisors must provide a copy upon the employee's request. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) established Universal Precautions stating that blood, and certain bodily fluids from ALL patients should be deemed potentially infectious. Workers should assume contamination at all times and thus implement safety protocols while handling cleanup or exposure. The employer must enable protective practices within the workspace that allow employees to label and color code soiled laundry, trash bags, trash bins, and cleaning materials red or orange. Bags, bins, and any receptacles for the disposal of needles and sharp objects should be puncture-proof and leak-resistant. Employees should wear protective gear at all times during handling and finish by disinfecting exposed areas with the appropriate disinfectant. Splashing and spatter contamination should be avoided, as well as manually pressing or compressing trash. It is advised for employees to refrain from personal activities like smoking, eating, and applying cosmetics in an exposure-risk area. Once the hazardous task has been correctly dealt with, employees should remove and dispose of protective gear. Sponges and towels used during cleanup should be thrown away, while mops, buckets, bins, spatulas, and tongs require thorough cleaning and disinfection after each use to avoid the further spread of disease.

To complete the Safety Guidelines against blood-borne pathogens, employers must provide HBV vaccination at no cost to workers after the completion of pathogen training and within 10 working days after any risky assignment.


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