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Bloodbourne Pathogens Exposure Control

bp1.pngExposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Health care workers, emergency response and public safety personnel, and other workers can be exposed to blood through needle stick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane, and skin exposures. The pathogens of primary concern are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Compliance with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires that occupationally exposed employees be given training at the time of their initial assignment and at least annually thereafter.

What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne Pathogens are microorganisms (such as viruses) transmitted through blood, or other potentially infectious material such as certain bodily fluids (semen, breast milk, etc.) or tissues. A virus is a germ that causes sickness. (For example, the flu is caused by a virus.) People can pass viruses to each other.

Bloodborne Pathogens can result in severe and deadly disease in healthcare or research personnel. While Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are of specific importance in the occupational setting, other bloodborne disease include malaria, syphilis, brucellosis, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, cytomegalovirus infection, and viral hemorrhagic fever.


How Might I be Exposed to Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bodily fluids, especially those visibly contaminated with blood, are capable of causing disease. 

  • Bloodborne pathogens can enter your body through a cut in the skin, through your eyes or mouth. Generally intact skin provides a good barrier to germs and viruses, however if you have a cut or opening in the skin, viruses are able to pass through to your bloodstream.
  • Bloodborne pathogens may also be spread sexually


The main diseases of concern in the occupational setting are the Hepatitis B and C virus, and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).


How Might I be Exposed at Work?

There are several ways in which bloodborne pathogens can be transmitted. The most efficient and common means of exposure in the workplace is percutaneous (through the skin), or the direct inoculation of infectious material by piercing through the skin barrier.

  • Most commonly this would be through an accidental needle stick
  • You could be exposed through a cut from other contaminated sharps (scalpels, broken glass, etc.)
  • You may also be exposed if you touch a surface contaminated with blood and then touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or open wounds or inflamed skin.


How Does the University Protect You?

The Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan describes how the university will take steps to minimize or eliminate your potential risks of exposure by:

  • Using "engineering" and "work practice" controls to eliminate or minimize your workplace exposure.
    • "Engineering Controls" are devices that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogen hazard from the workplace.
    • "Work Practice Controls" include procedures for hand washing, sharps disposal and contaminated material cleaning.
  • When the possibility of exposure remains after engineering and work practice controls have been implemented, personal protective equipment will also be used.
  • Providing training to "at-risk" employees. "At risk employees include: 
    • Health staff, plumbers, athletic coaches and trainers, custodial staff, laundry workers, or any job in which the administration of First Aid is part of their job duties. Although your normal work routine involves no exposure to blood, body fluids or tissues, you may be required to clean up a blood spill.
    • Resident Assistants and Security Staff: may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens while responding to a medical emergency situation where blood or other body fluids may be present.


  • Providing Hepatitis B vaccinations free of charge to all employees with occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. There will be more information about this vaccination in the training.
  • Using signs and labels to communicate appropriate warnings


Standard Precautions

"Standard Precautions" are safety measures that help keep employees protected and healthy when there may be the potential to come into contact with blood or other body fluids.

These precautions help to prevent the spread of infection. You must assume that all blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions except sweat, non-intact skin, and mucous membranes may contain infectious agents. You must treat all blood and body fluids as if they may contain HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens.

Some of the practices that reduce the chance of infection include hand hygiene and the use of gloves, gown, mask, eye protection or face shield depending on the anticipated exposure.

If you are involved in any activity involving a possible exposure to blood or other potentially infected materials, make sure to follow all precautions to avoid getting another person’s blood or body wastes on your skin or mucous membranes. Specific information on how to protect yourself will be discussed in the Bloodborne Pathogen Training Program.


Engineering and Work Practice Controls

Engineering and work practice controls are the primary methods used to control the transmission of HBV and HIV. This includes providing readily accessible hand washing facilities and hand sanitizers. Even though thorough hand washing is extremely important, soap and water alone have not been shown to kill the Hepatitis B virus. This is why it is necessary to wear disposable, water-impervious vinyl or latex gloves whenever there is a potential for exposure to blood or other bodily fluids visibly tinged with blood and any object contaminated with these fluids.

bp2.pngWhen hand washing facilities or hand sanitizers are not readily available, either an appropriate antiseptic hand cleanser in conjunction with clean cloth/paper towels or antiseptic towelettes should be used. When you use antiseptic hand cleansers or towelettes, be sure to wash your hands with soap and running water as soon as possible.

Your hands should also be washed as soon as possible after removing gloves or any other personal protective equipment.

When the possibility for a workplace exposure remains after engineering and work practice controls are put in place, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used.


How to Protect Yourself from Infection

If you find a discarded syringe, you must assume that the syringe may have been used by a person infected with a bloodborne disease. Therefore you must be sure not to bend, shear, break or recap the needle. You can use your dustpan and a broom or brush to sweep the needle in the dustpan. The needle should then be placed into a "Sharps" container.

When emptying trash containers, do not use your hands to compress the trash in the bag. If a needle or syringe has been disposed of in the trash and you use your hands to press down on the trash bag there is a possibility that you could be stuck with the needle.

When carrying the trash bag to your cart, make sure to carry it away from your body so that there is no possibility of having a needle break through and pierce your skin.

If you need to clean-up an area that has been contaminated with blood, you must assume that the possibility exists that the blood may contain bloodborne pathogens. Therefore you will need to use the "Personal Protective Equipment" (PPE) available to you before you begin.

bp3.pngThis PPE will include: 

  • Disposable gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Protective mask (if the possibility exists that blood may splash on your face during cleanup)
  • If the possibility exists that blood may splash onto your work clothes during cleanup, you should wear some kind of protective clothing (such as a disposable gown or coveralls) to cover your clothes


To clean up any blood spills (including dried blood, which can still be infectious):

  • If the blood spill is in a public area, use signs or caution tape to set up a barrier to keep the public away from the area
  • Remove as much visible material as possible with absorbent towels
  • After removing visual remainders of the spill, clean the area with disinfectant/detergent active against BBP (Disinfectant Solution: 1 (one) part household bleach to 10 (ten) parts of water)
  • Apply disinfectant/detergent a final time, allowing agent to set for 10 minutes or to air dry.
  • Remove your gloves being careful not to touch your skin with the contaminated gloves. Refer to Glove Removal Technique for step-by-step instructions
  • Place gloves and all disinfected clean-up materials in a plastic bag and dispose in the regular trash
  • Wash your hands well using liquid, bar or powder soap. Rub hands together vigorously to make a lather and scrub all surfaces. Continue for 20 seconds! It takes that long for the soap and scrubbing action to dislodge and remove stubborn germs. Rinse hands well under running water.


Additional Information

UW Oshkosh Bloodborne Pathogens Program




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