Sunday, January 5, 2014
Bloodborne Pathogens and Cal OSHA Requirements for Control
What are bloodborne pathogens? They’re infectious microorganisms which appear in human blood and can cause disease. They include Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV or human immunodeficiency virus.
Healthcare workers can be exposed to these pathogens through needlesticks and other injuries. Exposure can put workers at risk for serious illness. To prevent occupational exposure, employee protection must be implemented to eliminate or minimize the possibility of infection. This is done through the use of shielded needles, needle-less medical devices, protective clothing, and sanitation of surfaces, clothing, and equipment.
OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard offers certain safeguards designed to protect workers against bloodborne pathogen health hazards. It outlines exposure control plans, work practice controls, vaccination, and record keeping requirements. With an estimated 5.6 million healthcare workers at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens from human blood and bodily fluids, tissues, and organs, OSHA mandates the implementation of precautions for the handling of all potentially infectious materials. Complying with these mandates is necessary both legally and for employee well being and health.
These precautions include disposal containers for sharp objects, self-sheathing needles, and needle-less system implementation. They also include identifying and practicing work controls such as cleaning and sanitization of contaminated surfaces, careful handling and disposal of sharps, and the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves and gowns, which need to be cleaned and maintained properly, as well.
OSHA also requires that Hepatitis B vaccines are provided for all healthcare workers within ten days of a job assignment that includes occupational exposure to potential bloodborne pathogens. And, should a healthcare worker be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, post-exposure follow up and evaluation must be provided, cost-free. The exposure and its circumstances must be thoroughly documented as well.
This means that employers must establish and set up an exposure control plan to eliminate or greatly reduce exposure possibilities. How? Listing job types that have exposure potential, and the tasks and procedures that can put workers at risk is one way. Employers must determine what procedures and tasks can be altered to prevent or limit exposures. This determination and any technology that eliminates or limits exposure must be updated annually, including the use of safer medical devices and the consideration of knowledge obtained on the job by workers in these areas about safer procedures.
Labels and signs that indicate waste hazards or containers used to transport potentially hazardous materials, laundry, or storage facilities should be utilized. Workers must be trained on the proper way to handle potentially hazardous materials and situations when initially assigned to their work position, and annually.
Naturally, maintaining the medical and training records of all healthcare records is also key, and keeping a record of sharps injuries. At present, the CDC estimates approximately 600,000 injuries annually that involve contaminated needles, glass, dental devices, and other objects that penetrate skin surface. The use of universal precautions to prevent or limit exposure is vitally important to lower exposure possibilities and health risk for workers. Safe handling precautions and vaccinations are enormously helpful in reducing these numbers.