Approximately 5.6 million workers are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (the virus that causes AIDS), Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus.
— Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Read that again: 5.6 million workers are at risk. That’s a significant segment of the workforce. While public service and medical industry workers are at the highest risk, any employee in any working environment could be exposed to bloodborne pathogens. It could be as simple as an accidental prick by an infected needle, exposure to blood following an onsite cut or injury, or contact with broken skin that contains contaminated blood. For example, an accidental slice while preparing a meal in the breakroom or an injury during a friendly game of basketball while on break could lead to an exposure situation. Obviously, higher risk jobs — like medical, housekeeping, waste disposal, law enforcement, firefighters and first-responders — require proper bloodborne pathogen training, yet all companies would benefit from heightened awareness about how to prepare for and address possible exposure.

What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms such as viruses, fungi and other agents in the blood or other bodily fluids that can cause illness and disease in people. Bloodborne pathogens appear in blood, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, and any bodily fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood. Pathogens also could appear in living or dead human organs, as well as in diseased cells or HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions. When an employee encounters these pathogens, they run the risk of contracting a variety of diseases, including Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Given the wide range of possible exposure and the affect it can have on those infected, it’s critical that at-risk positions take training seriously.

What is Bloodborne Pathogen Training?

Since employee safety is the responsibility of both the business owner and the employee, it’s important that you provide your entire staff with training that helps them understand the risk, how to avoid it and what to do in the event of exposure. Subjects that should be covered in training include:
  • Clear understanding of what bloodborne pathogens are and the possible diseases workers could be exposed to in the event of contact with infected blood
  • Job categories where exposure risk is highest
  • Types of daily activities that increase the risk of exposure
  • Ways to minimize and/or control risk in the workplace
  • Review of OSHA’s “universal precautions” approach to avoiding exposure
  • Review of Personal Protective Equipment (specialized clothing/gear that reduces risk)
  • Proper cleaning procedures following possible exposure
  • Proper disposal of objects potentially exposed to infected blood
  • Decontamination steps for surfaces potentially exposed to infected blood
Sharing this information with all employees, not only the ones impacted by potential exposure, creates a safer environment for all.

Annual Review and Training is Essential

Under OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard, employers with employees that are in occupations exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must train employees annually regardless of the employees’ prior training or education. In addition, employers are required to write an Exposure Control Plan (ECP) that identifies the job classifications with potential exposure, as well as the tasks, procedures and equipment used to help reduce potential exposure. The ECP should also include procedures for handling exposure incidents, as well as how you inform employees and the records you keep to ensure the adherence of safety precautions, including training. The ECP should be reviewed and adjusted annually, based on the previous year’s activity and potential evolution of high risk job requirements.

We Can Help You Create a Safer Workplace

Instead of cobbling together information from the internet, it’s best to identify resources that will help you accomplish your safety training needs. The Safety Training Smart App includes comprehensive training on bloodborne pathogen awareness, prevention processes and what to do in the event of exposure.
Key Takeaways
  • Bloodborne pathogen exposure can have serious health implications for those exposed
  • Exposure can come from a variety of sources
  • High-risk positions require ongoing and regular training
  • Training should be comprehensive for all employees
  • Documenting your high-risk positions and the processes you deploy to protect employees is a requirement
  • Online apps are available to help you easily manage training programs