Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bloodborne Pathogens - FAQ

Workers in many different occupations are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS. First aid team members, housekeeping personnel in some settings, nurses and other healthcare providers are examples of workers who may be at risk of exposure.

On December 6, 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgated the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This standard is designed to protect approximately 5.6 million workers in the health care and related occupations from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).

As a result of the standard, numerous questions have been received on how to implement the provisions of the standard. On this blog we will provide answers to some of the more commonly asked questions related to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Q1. Who Is covered by the standard?

The standard applies to all employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).
  • Occupational exposure is defined as "reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from the performance of the employee's duties."

  • Blood is defined as human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood.

  • OPIM is defined as the following human body fluids: saliva in dental procedures, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, pericardial, peritoneal, and amniotic fluids; body fluids visibly contaminated with blood; along with all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; unfixed human tissues or organs (other than intact skin); HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture media or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.
Q2. We have employees who are designated to render first aid. Are they covered by the standard?

Yes. If employees are trained and designated as responsible for rendering first aid or medical assistance as part of their job duties, they are covered by the protections of the standard.

Q3. Are employees such as housekeepers, maintenance workers, or janitors covered by the standard?

Housekeeping workers in health care facilities may have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, as defined by the standard. Individuals who perform housekeeping duties, particularly in patient care and laboratory areas, may perform tasks, such as cleaning blood spills and handling regulated wastes, which constitute occupational exposure.

While OSHA does not generally consider maintenance personnel and janitorial staff employed in non-health care facilities to have occupational exposure, it is the employer's responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve occupational exposure.

Q4. What is an exposure control plan?

The exposure control plan is the employer's written program that outlines the protective measures an employer will take to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood and OPIM.

The exposure control plan must contain at a minimum:
  1. The exposure determination which identifies job classifications and, in some cases, tasks and procedures where there is occupational exposure to blood and OPIM;
  2. The procedures for evaluating the circumstances surrounding an exposure incident; and
  3. A schedule of how and when other provisions of the standard will be implemented, including methods of compliance, HIV and HBV research laboratories and production facilities requirements, hepatitis B vaccination and post-exposure follow-up, communication of hazards to employees, and recordkeeping.
A fill-in-the-blank exposure control plan may be obtained as part of the Bloodborne Pathogens Training Kit from National Safety Compliance.

Q5. What is meant by the term Universal Precautions?

Universal Precautions is OSHA's required method of control to protect employees from exposure to all human blood and OPIM. The term, "Universal Precautions," refers to a concept of bloodborne disease control which requires that all human blood and certain human body fluids are treated as if known to be infectious for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens.

Q6. What type of personal protective equipment (PPE) should employees wear?

The standard requires that PPE be "appropriate." PPE will be considered "appropriate" only if it does not permit blood or OPIM to pass through to, or reach, the skin, employees' underlying garments, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time that the PPE will be used. This allows the employer to select PPE based on the type of exposure and the quantity of blood or OPIM which can be reasonably anticipated to be encountered during performance of a task or procedure.

Q7. Who is responsible for providing PPE?

The financial responsibility for repairing, replacing, cleaning, and disposing of PPE rests with the employer. The employer is not obligated under the standard to provide general work clothes to employees, but is responsible for providing PPE. If laboratory jackets or uniforms are intended to protect the employee's body or clothing from contamination, they are to be provided by the employer.
PPE kits and spill clean-up kits specific to bloodborne pathogens may be purchased from National Safety Compliance.

Q8. Who must be offered the hepatitis B vaccination?

The hepatitis B vaccination series must be made available to all employees who have occupational exposure. The employer does not have to make the hepatitis B vaccination available to employees who have previously received the vaccination series, who are already immune as their antibody tests reveal, or who are prohibited from receiving the vaccine for medical reasons.

Q9. Which employees must be trained regarding Bloodborne Pathogens?

All employees with occupational exposure must receive initial and annual bloodborne pathogens training.
To assist trainers and employers, a bloodborne pathogens training video is available from National Safety Compliance.

For more information about the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens regulations, please make a comment on this blog page or visit the following link: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=21010&p_text_version=FALSE