How To Protect Your Employees from Bloodborne Pathogens

August 21, 2019 | Reskill Your Workforce | 4 min read
What Are You Doing to Protect Your Employees from Bloodborne Pathogens?

According to OSHA, bloodborne pathogens (BBPS) are pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To protect workers from severe or life-threatening illnesses arising from contact with BBPS, OSHA created standards that prescribe safeguards against the hazards posed by BBPS. In 2001, these standards became effective. For the complete set of requirements, read Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1030.

What do OSHA’s BBPS standards cover?

OSHA’s standards address occupational exposure to BBPS. OSHA defines occupational exposure as reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties. It’s the employer’s responsibility to protect employees who have the potential for exposure to BBPS as they perform tasks associated with their job.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 5.6 million employees are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Maintaining a safe and healthful workplace is essential to both employers and employees. Although healthcare workers are the most likely to be exposed, employees working other types of jobs are also at risk. These workers include custodians, emergency responders and law enforcement officers. Office, retail, and restaurant workers also have the potential for exposure due to workplace accidents.

What must employers do to protect employees from BBPS?

In general, the BBPS standard requires employers to:

  • Create an exposure control plan and update it annually
  • Use universal precautions and treat all human blood and other potentially infected materials as if known to contain bloodborne pathogens
The BBPS standard requires employers to create an exposure control plan and update it annually
  • Identify and use engineering and safe work controls and provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
Identify and use engineering and safe work controls and provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Make the Hepatitis B vaccination available to all employees who risk occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • Make post-exposure and evaluation follow-up available for any employee exposed to bloodborne pathogens
Make the Hepatitis B vaccination available to all employees who risk occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • Use labels and signs to communicate hazards
  • Provide training and information to workers upon initial assignment, and repeat yearly thereafter or upon the implementation of new or revised tasks or procedures that could affect exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • Maintain worker training and medical records

Learn more with the Quick Reference Guide to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and Occupations Affected by Bloodborne Infectious Diseases

Most frequently cited sections of the standard

In addition to protecting workers, a well planned and executed BBPS program provides the foundation for successful audit and inspection results. OSHA can discover violations during programmed/regularly scheduled inspections or when investigating imminent dangers, fatalities and catastrophes or complaints.

OSHA’s five most commonly cited sections of the BBPS regulations are:

  1. Establishment of a written Exposure Control Plan
  2. Review and update of the Exposure Control Plan
  3. Use of engineering and workplace practice controls
  4. Availability of HBV vaccination
  5. Employee Training Program

What happens to your organization if found non-compliant

The following case provides a good illustration. In 2016, OSHA received a complaint alleging employee exposure to blood and other potentially infectious bodily fluids while handling packages labeled as containing biological infectious materials. OSHA’s inspection documented willful and serious violations related to the employer’s failure to have an implemented written exposure control plan and a failure to train workers on bloodborne pathogen hazards and protections. The employer had also failed to provide appropriately sized gloves, had not completed an exposure determination, and had failed to offer potentially exposed employees the Hepatitis B vaccine. The proposed penalties totaled $342,059.

How Skillsoft’s Compliance solution can help

Skillsoft’s Bloodborne Pathogen Awareness course is one of the top three environmental, health and safety titles accessed by Skillsoft learners worldwide. If desired, employers can supplement the online course by combining the online content with non-web-based training. Companies can also add a customization package to the Skillsoft online course. Customization can include a custom course title, access to an employer’s bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan, localization and the addition of an employer’s qualified trainer contact information.

Skillsoft offers the following BBP training courses:

  • Bloodborne Pathogen Awareness (Available in multiple localized/translated versions)
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Awareness – Cal/OSHA
  • Global Safety Principles: Bloodborne Pathogen Awareness
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Controls that Reduce or Eliminate Transmission
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Decontamination Procedures
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Measures to Take for Skin and Eye Exposures
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Modes of Transmission
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Procedures to Follow if an Exposure Occurs
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Impact: Proper Use and Handling of PPE
  • Compliance Short: Bloodborne Pathogen Awareness

Allison von Gruenigen is a Compliance Solutions Consultant at Skillsoft.