Are you protecting yourself from blood borne pathogens?

Blood borne pathogens are the agents of infection spread by exposure to bodily fluids. The ways we protect ourselves are by cleanliness practices which, in the workplace, are an approach to infection control referred to as universal precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance to all workplaces on the required standards of safety and sanitation including the healthcare setting of an orthotic / prosthetic facility.

Take precautions

The details of universal precautions include training staff on the facility's "exposure control plan," regular availability for staff of appropriate ventilation, appropriate storage for flammables or hazardous materials, care involving needle sticks, the correct types of disposal containers, protective gloves, protective eyewear, dust masks, lab coats, availability of disinfectants, availability of tissues, examination tables with fresh disposable covers or freshly disinfected surfaces, and the availability of washing facilities.

These precautions will assure patients and staff that the facility is concerned for their health and safety.

The exposure control plan should educate the staff on the way that germs, (especially viruses such as HIV, hepatitis or herpes) are spread. The staff should be introduced to and trained in the use of the tools that are provided to prevent this spread. The facility might consider arranging an official OSHA training session for the staff. OSHA guidelines may not require Hepatitis B vaccinations for staff, but should this provision be considered in your facility?

For your information

  • Refer to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), identified as 29 CFR Standard Number 19 10.1030 for references to blood borne pathogens, exposure control plans and universal precautions.
  • Visit wwwosha.gov for more OSHA information
  • Visit www.fda.gov for Food and Drug Administration information on medical devices or drugs
  • Visit www.cdc.gov for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on disease-causing microorganisms that are present in the human blood, and therefore possibly also present in saliva, mucous membranes and urine.

Reprinted from the BOC Newsletter, Summer 2001