Occupational exposure is key to Bloodborne Pathogens applicability

Date Posted: 03/04/2024
Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Incident

While most employers associate exposure to bloodborne pathogens with healthcare workers, there are many other occupations, including first aid team members, housekeeping personnel, and various other workers who may be at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens (BBP).

In fact, nearly 43 percent of bloodborne pathogen citations go to industries other than healthcare. Even though OSHA’s regulation at 1910.1030 has been around for years, it’s still one of the most cited with well over 1,000 violations each year.

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are bacteria, viruses, and other pathogenic microorganisms that are too small to be seen and can only be detected by sophisticated medical tests. These pathogens live in blood and certain other body fluids and can cause serious diseases like hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — diseases that can make a person extremely sick or even cause death.

Anyone can be a bloodborne pathogen carrier. The affected person might not even know it, because there’s no way of knowing you’ve been infected until you start feeling symptoms or undergo appropriate lab tests.

Know what puts employees at risk

Whether the BBP standard applies to your company hinges on whether any employees have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Occupational exposure is defined in the standard as “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties.” In layman’s terms, this means getting blood or OPIM in your eyes, nose, mouth, or on broken skin. Examples of employees who may have this type of exposure include those who are designated to provide first aid or who are assigned to clean up after an injury.

What does the standard require?

In general, the BBP standard requires covered employes to:

  • Establish an exposure control plan and update it annually;
  • Implement the use of universal precautions (treating all human blood and OPIM as if known to be infectious for BBP);
  • Identify and use engineering controls;
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Make hepatitis B vaccinations available to all workers with occupational exposure;
  • Make post-exposure evaluation and follow-up available to occupationally exposed workers who experience an exposure incident;
  • Use labels and signs to communicate hazards;
  • Provide information and training to workers; and
  • Maintain worker medical and training records.

Training requirements are outlined in paragraph (g)(2) of the standard and must cover:

  • Information on bloodborne pathogens and diseases,
  • Methods used to control occupational exposure,
  • Hepatitis B vaccine, and
  • Medical evaluation and post-exposure follow-up procedures.

Training must be provided upon initial assignment, at least annually thereafter, and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure. HIV and HBV laboratory and production facility workers must receive specialized initial training, in addition to the training provided to all workers with occupational exposure.

Workers must have the opportunity to ask the trainer questions. Also, training must be presented at an educational level and in a language that workers understand.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety Training

Training is a critical part of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. The Training area of the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE contains classroom training and videos, as well as numerous resources that you can modify to meet your needs, including handouts, 5-minute talks, quizzes, and more.

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