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May 16 2018
by Impact News

Blood-borne Pathogens: How to Stay Safe

The world can be a dangerous place: 24-ounce cups of extremely complicated coffee orders can make someone so manic they forget how to text!

Just kidding. Being over-caffeinated isn’t a calamity. Oversleeping so that you’re almost late to a meeting and don’t have time for a coffee stop — that’s major.

But if your colleague accidentally cuts himself at work, it’s also not a big deal; just get out the first aid kit, apply antiseptic and a Band-Aid, and you’re good to go, right? Not necessarily.

When it comes to blood, it’s much better to be safe than sorry, as the saying goes. Can’t imagine a coworker’s blood is any cause for concern? Think twice.

Making Your Blood Run Cold

Blood is so ubiquitous that we don’t often stop to consider the pathogens it can carry. According to the Environmental Health & Safety Database, blood-borne pathogen control in the workplace is essential, for first aid workers — and people who work with spill clean up and spill containment, such as hospital crews, school and food service employees, emergency response teams, event center and industrial crews… pretty much anyone who comes into potential contact with blood, and potential blood-borne pathogens.

EHSDB says, “The viruses that cause Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) are two examples of blood-borne pathogens. For a blood-borne pathogen to be spread, the bodily fluids of an infected person must enter into the bloodstream of another person. The most common cause of transmission in the workplace is when an infected person’s blood enters another person’s bloodstream through an open wound.”

That’s pretty scary.

And it’s why we delineated how to prepare for a blood-borne spill earlier this year. Because anybody can be exposed during an accident, or even from close contact with someone who has an open sore.

The Exposure Control Plan

OSHA has created detailed guidelinesto help keep everyone safe at work when faced with blood-borne pathogens. Just as companies such as Impact Absorbents develop SPCC (Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure) programs for the workplace, OSHA requires businesses to implement an Exposure Control Plan. Any employer with employees covered by the standard must have a written exposure control plan.

As EHS reminds, it’s all too easy to be exposed to blood-borne pathogens, e.g.:

  • Accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharp objects
  • Contact between damaged skin and infected body fluids
  • Contact between mucous membranes and infected body fluids. Infected blood can enter through:
    • Open sores
    • Cuts
    • Abrasions
    • Acne
    • Any damaged or broken skin such as sunburn or blisters.

In an emergency situation involving blood or potentially infectious materials, aim to minimize your exposure by wearing glovessplash gogglesface shields, and other protective barriers.

Maybe the best step, if you notice a colleague has a cut or other skin abrasion, is to offer to do the coffee run. You’ll get your caffeine fix first, and stay safe in the bargain. Just remember to walk carefully back to work.