Bloodborne Pathogens

Originally published 02/28/2017

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease in humans including: hepatitis B and C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Workers exposed to these pathogens risk serious illness or death.

Pathogens may be acquired through a single exposure. Medical experts agree that exposure occurs by contact with any body fluid that is contaminated with blood or blood components, including saliva and a variety of other body fluids. Some people are concerned that normal physical contact can transmit exposure, but experts deny this. The risk of exposure to a bloodborne pathogen is highest when body fluid contaminated with blood is ingested, inhaled or absorbed by another person. The occupational risk is for specific work assignments that may expose individuals to unknown body fluids. Since you can’t determine by sight if fluids are contaminated with blood, you must assume that pathogens may be present and take precautions.

Construction industry employers should consider developing and documenting the following:

  • For each construction jobsite and/or operation:
    • Identify the processes or procedures where exposure to bloodborne pathogens could occur. (For example: injuries could occur during a paving operation, a grading operation, an excavating operation, etc.)
    • Develop a strategy to: (1) control, minimize or eliminate those injury hazards; and (2) reduce the risk of employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens when accidents and injuries occur.
  • Strategies used by many contractors include:
  • Designate and train a person to be the “first responder” in handling emergency situations on the jobsite;
  • Train employees on how to respond to accidents and injuries;
  • Provide ready access to personal protective equipment on the jobsite including: gloves, eye protection such as goggles or glasses with side shields, resuscitation mouth pieces and first aid kits;
  • Routinely inspect, maintain and re-stock personal protective equipment and document your actions;
  • Routine and regular jobsite housekeeping;
  • Administer the hepatitis B vaccine to employees with the potential for exposure;
  • Arrange for a physician’s post-exposure evaluation (follow-up medical care) to any employee exposed to bloodborne pathogens;
  • Designate an area or areas on the jobsite for employees to eat and take breaks away from the hazard areas;
  • Provide antibacterial cleansers, soap, and where possible, hand washing areas on the jobsite; and
  • Provide red plastic bags (labeled “biohazard”) to store contaminated clothing and bandages should an accident occur.

The potential exists every day for exposure to a bloodborne pathogen on a construction jobsite. Plan for the possibility and protect yourself and your co-workers.

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