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Bloodborne Pathogens: Slow Down Before Jumping In

It is human nature that people want to help other people. However, before providing assistance to an injured party, it is important to take a moment to pause and assess any given situation and absorb the details. This is applicable in business and everyday life.

When somebody has fallen or is in pain, one’s first instinct is to immediately jump in and help. However, it is crucial to assess the situation to determine if you are potentially exposing yourself to unwanted risks or hazards. If a first responder doesn’t take a moment to evaluate the situation to make sure the area is safe to enter, then they may injure themselves while attempting to help someone else. You can’t help someone if you are injured along with them! In the rush to provide aid to an associate in need, I have seen people fall themselves, slip, breathe in the same chemical fumes that the injured was exposed to, and fail to use personal protective equipment (PPE). One potential area of exposure to a responder is associated with easily transferrable bloodborne viruses the victim may not even know they carry (e.g., asymptomatic infection). That is why slowing down to put on the correct PPE before helping an injured coworker — or really anybody — should always be a priority in maintaining safety. The last thing anyone wants in the workplace is a valued employee and friend to be injured or contract an illness while responding to an emergency. 

Bloodborne pathogens, as defined by OSHA, refer to pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These include hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These viruses are spread when contaminated blood comes into contact with broken skin, cuts, or other mucus membranes. The most common type of exposure to bloodborne pathogens is through needlesticks, usually occurring in the medical field. In an industrial setting, the most common type of exposure is first responders coming into contact with the blood of an injured employee. Employers are responsible for providing the proper PPE and training for its proper use. Examples of PPE that might be useful in preventing workplace exposures to bloodborne pathogens include: gloves, gowns, aprons, eye and face shields, goggles, and mouthpieces for resuscitation.

OSHA requires bloodborne pathogen training and an Exposure Control Plan (ECP) to eliminate or minimize exposure to bloodborne pathogens while in the workplace. Many companies have in-house emergency response teams or first responder trained employees that will help injured workers. Custodial staff are unfortunately often overlooked, but if they are responsible for cleaning up after an accident, they too have an exposure risk. These workers must go through bloodborne pathogen training and review the Exposure Control Plan to help protect themselves from exposure to potentially contaminated bodily fluids.

Facility safety personnel need to be prepared and respond appropriately to an injury, especially when blood is involved. Gets the facts, assess the situation, don the appropriate PPE, and then began aiding the injured party. 

If you do not have a bloodborne pathogen policy, procedure or an ECP, Braun Intertec can help you with that. For more information, please click the link below to fill out our Contact Us form.