Pathogens are bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease. Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood, saliva and other bodily fluids that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Bloodborne pathogens can be transmitted when blood or other body fluids from an infected person enters another person’s body due to a needle-stick, bites, cuts, abrasions or through mucous membranes like the eyes.

  • If you help someone who is bleeding or if you are potentially exposed to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids, you must wear personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves and eye protection.
  • If blood or other possible infectious body fluid is on your gloves, dispose of the gloves properly by putting them in a biohazard waste bag. If you do not have a biohazard waste bag, put the gloves in a plastic bag that can be sealed before you dispose of it.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and running water after you remove and dispose of the gloves.
  • It is important that any blood or other potentially infectious body fluids is quickly and completely cleaned up with soap and water to limit the chance of exposing your coworkers to bloodborne pathogens. Wear personal protective equipment when cleaning up blood or potentially infectious body fluids.
  • Hands are the areas that are most likely to be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids. Wash your hands with soap and running water after contact with blood or other potentially infectious body fluids to reduce your chance of becoming sick or spreading germs to others.
  • It is very important that you report any exposures to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids to your supervisor. Reporting all exposures helps you get treatment and helps your employer identify and reduce causes of exposure.

Maintain a first aid kit which includes gloves, eye protection and a proper means to dispose of the infected material. Antiseptic hand cleaner or towelettes should also be provided.

Personnel should be properly trained in first aid response and how to correctly handle and dispose of potentially infected material.

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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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