Sunday, 12 February 2012

Bloodborne Pathogens - 10 Standards Prescribed by OSHA

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Bloodborne pathogens are infection-causing microorganisms that can lead to serious diseases if they come in contact with people. Healthcare and many related occupations are most vulnerable. But now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have prescribed the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to minimize such risks.

1. Exposure Control Plan: A policy must be outlined by the employer which includes all the potentially hazardous jobs and procedures and precautions suggested to minimize the risk of contracting diseases due to bloodborne pathogens. The plan must be updated regularly to keep occupational exposure at the minimum.

2. Universal Precautions: These standard precautions ensure that all the required gear like gloves, gowns, eyewear and face masks are used to avoid contact with bloodborne pathogens or any material that contains such microorganisms.

3. Engineering Controls: These refer to modern medical devices like needles and containers which are designed to be safer when using and storing by reducing the chances of accidental contact with contaminated materials thus reducing risks of infection due to bloodborne pathogens.

4. Work Practice Control: These controls stress on following proper and safer practices while carrying out various tasks which include better handling and disposal of contaminated materials, and also maintaining better cleanliness standards. Such practices can help to reduce exposure to infection.

5. Personal Protective Equipment: This standard of OSHA makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the employer to provide all the equipment required by the employees to discharge their duties. This also includes cleaning used equipment and replacing damaged gear.

6. Hepatitis B Vaccinations: All workers who have undergone appropriate training and are taking up work where risk of occupational exposure is present are offered the Hepatitis B vaccine for immunization against the virus which can be contracted through the blood.

7. Post-exposure Evaluation: A worker who has experienced occupational exposure due to contact with blood or contaminated material shall receive complete evaluation and follow ups without the worker having to incur any costs. A report of the incident is maintained in the evaluation records for future treatment and reference.

8. Labels and Signs: Proper warning signs and labels must be affixed on all containers, bags, shelves and refrigerators which contain any potentially contaminated blood or samples or any used instruments and materials including those being transported for disposal. Such signs should also be present on doors denoting such hazardous areas.

9. Information and Training: A combination of information and training must be imparted to all workers about the threats due to bloodborne pathogens and all the procedures to be adopted for reducing the chances of occupational exposure. Besides initial training such exercises must be repeated on an annual basis at least to update the workers according to the advances in safety measures.

10. Worker Records: A complete record of the workers training and medical documentation must be maintained by the employer and updated when necessary. In certain cases details of injury may also be recorded.

Any occupation that is prone to the typical risks of occupational exposure due to bloodborne pathogens must follow the above standards at all times as OSHA often carries out inspection to ensure compliance.

For more information, please visit our bloodborne pathogens website.

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