How to Respond to a Bloodborne Pathogen Incident
Incidents involving bloodborne pathogens can occur in many occupational settings. While they require timely attention, it's a mistake to panic when they occur — in fact, it's generally when a bloodborne pathogen incident is handled in a hurry rather than in a controlled, methodical fashion that serious mistakes happen.
Each year, thousands of workers are exposed to bloodborne pathogens in the workplace. If your employees have the potential to be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, you are legally required to take specific steps to protect them. Join us on Feb. 4 for an in-depth 90-minute webinar, specifically for California employers, all about reducing workers' risks and your potential legal exposure.
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Here are some tips for appropriately responding to bloodborne pathogen incidents:
- Stop the action: Unless it involves a medical emergency, when a bloodborne pathogen incident has occurred, be it a needlestick or some other type of contact with potentially contaminated material, employees should be advised to stop what they're doing and address the incident at that point in time rather than waiting until later. Addressing it immediately helps to ensure proper reporting and can also help prevent potential exposure to others.
- Secure the area: If there is material that might expose to others to harm, it should be secured as soon as possible.
- Consult the exposure control plan: Most bloodborne pathogen incidents allow personnel the time to reference the exposure control plan rather than work from memory when responding to the incident. Consulting the exposure control plan will help to ensure that proper procedures are followed, including those for reporting, cleanup, disinfection or decontamination, and disposal. Doing this is particularly important when bloodborne pathogen incidents are a rare occurrence at in your workplace. You might want to consider having the incident response information sections flagged with tabs, or putting a "cheat sheet" at the front to allow the information to be referenced more easily.
- Have basic materials on hand: Even though a bloodborne pathogen incident allows for slower, more controlled response, it can't wait forever. Every workplace where bloodborne pathogen incidents are possible should have cleanup and response basics on hand — personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfecting/decontamination materials, reporting forms or logs (as required), details on disposal (for example, if regular disposal of contaminated materials is not the regular course of business, identify in the plan who the disposal company is that is called to remove any contaminated materials), and details on medical follow-up for any employees who have been exposed. Having the basics on hand will prevent your exposure control plan from being short-circuited.
- Close the loop: After the bloodborne pathogen incident has been addressed, identify any issues in the exposure control plan that did not work (this can even be noted while working through the incident — for example, noting if PPE was difficult to locate or insufficient in quantity or type).
How to Reduce Disease Transmission Risks in the Workplace
Millions of workers in healthcare and related industries are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens via needlesticks, splashes of blood, or bodily fluids. Bloodborne diseases can be deadly, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
Over the years, Cal/OSHA has revised its bloodborne pathogen standard to include tracking of occupational injuries from contaminated sharps, workplace controls, and the privacy protection of employees injured by contaminated sharps. In addition, your exposure control plan must be reviewed annually, and workers must be involved in the selection of safety devices they use in the workplace to protect themselves from infection.
Join us on Feb. 4 for an in-depth 90-minute webinar all about reducing workers' risks and your potential legal exposure. Bring your managers and supervisors along, too. You'll learn:
- The requirements of the OSHA and Cal/OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards, and how they differ
- How to create an exposure control plan and audit it annually
- The serious illnesses that can be caused by exposure to bloodborne pathogens
- How to establish and use universal precautions
- Why personal protective equipment (PPE) and other engineering controls are crucial to preventing exposures
- How to get your employees on board with helping to protect themselves from exposure
- When and how a work area should be cleaned and decontaminated
- The labels and signage you're required to use when storing, transporting and shipping potentially infections material
- What to do immediately when an employee is exposed to bloodborne pathogens — and how to record the incident
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