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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Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.

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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Insect Bites and Stings

In the United States, ants sting 9.3 million people each year. Wasps, bees and spiders account for more than a million stings and bites annually. Sometimes that pesky mosquito bite needs nothing more than a little hydrocortisone cream and time to heal. But occasionally, it’s not so simple.

While most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous if we don’t treat them properly – especially if you have an undiagnosed allergy to a particular venom, or if the bug is a disease carrier. According to the Center for Disease Control, insect bites (including spider bites) accounted for 36,100 non-fatal injuries and illnesses involving time away from work between 1992 and 1997. That’s more than 7,000 cases per year, and there is no indication that the number has decreased since that time.

In extreme cases, a reaction to a bite or sting can cause a trip to a hospital emergency room. Dr. Margaret Parsons, dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, advises people to go to the emergency room after being stung or bitten if they experience the sensation that the throat is closing, chest pain, a persistent racing heartbeat, dizziness or vomiting.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most common bites and stings in the United States come from mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, bees, wasps, hornets, biting flies, mites, ticks, fire ants and bedbugs. Tick bites have the potential to carry Lyme disease. Spider bites can cause serious, localized skin destruction, depending on the species. Several mosquito species carry and transmit the West Nile virus. West Nile is tricky since between 70 and 80 percent of people don’t exhibit symptoms once they’re infected. But in severe cases, patients will typically experience headaches, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and/or rash. Hospitalization to provide fluids intravenously and pain medication may be necessary in these cases.

Types of insect bite and sting reactions include:


Within minutes of a bite or sting, localized inflammation occurs. With bee and wasp stings, pain may range from mild to severe. In some cases, swelling can last from 48 hours to one week.

Toxic Systemic

Caused by venom injections, this reaction can be difficult to distinguish from systemic allergic reactions because the signs and symptoms are similar.

Systemic Allergic

This Type I hypersensitivity causes an immediate and obvious reaction resulting in skin hives or deep tissue swelling.


This Type III hypersensitivity has a delayed reaction that can lead to serum sickness, which typically occurs days or weeks after the sting or bite. Serum sickness can cause inflammation of different organ systems, affecting the blood vessels, nerves, brain or kidneys. It can also cause clotting abnormalities.

Fall is an active time for stinging insects and spiders. Take precautions to prevent bites and stings:

  • Avoid scented insect repellents and other products with sweet fragrances;
  • Avoid bright-colored clothes;
  • Tuck in your shirt and pant cuffs;
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts; and
  • Cover all drinks and containers.

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