An Overview of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

In 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued their Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to try to protect more than 6 million healthcare workers in the United States. A decade later, in 2001, OSHA amended the standards that apply to all workers who have a reasonable expectation of contacting blood or other potentially infectious materials on their skin, eyes, mucous membranes or mouth. Consider these key components of this law.

Employees Must be Educated Annually

All facilities where workers may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens must be recertified on the Bloodborne Pathogens standards on a yearly basis. The training must be offered at a level that is appropriate for the position held within the healthcare organization. The training must cover how the worker can access the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, an overview of possible diseases and their symptoms, disease transmission, and the institution’s exposure plan. Employees must be instructed on how to choose personal protective equipment and the availability of the Hepatitis B vaccine. Employees must be told who to contact if an incident occurs and what will happen to their report. There is a lot of latitude in how individual facilities carry out the standard.

Design a Workplace Exposure Plan

Each facility must have a written workplace exposure plan. This plan must be available to employees who want to access it. It can be computerized. The plan must be updated at least annually, and it must address new technology that has been implemented to protect workers dealing with bloodborne pathogen incidences. Examples of this technology include use of needleless devices, shielded needles, plastic capillary tubes, no-hands handling contaminated sharps, hands-free passing of surgical instruments, and dealing with medical waste on-site through SteriMed’s system to eliminate the potential hazards from medical waste quickly right at your facility. This system is available through Steri-Green in Orlando and other locations. An action plan must be developed.

Identify Potential Problem Areas and Take Corrective Action

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires that facilities look at where most incidences of exposure occur and take measures to correct the situation if there is a repeated pattern. According to an OSHA study, the most commonly affected workers are nurses who are giving patient care in patient rooms, operating rooms, emergency departments, and ICU areas. The exposure is most likely caused by a non-safety device.

One of the easiest ways to lower exposure to bloodborne pathogens is to have an effective medical waste program. Steri-Green invites you to look at their system that is no bigger than a photocopier, but it allows you to treat all medical waste in Orlando in your own facility. Lowering the time of exposure to medical waste in Orlando improves everyone’s likelihood of staying safe. A bonus of this program is that waste can then be disposed of in normal trash greatly lowering the cost of medical waste disposal.