Preventing bloodborne pathogens in the workplace
While the idea of illness being spread through blood in the workplace is often assumed to mostly happen in medical settings like hospitals, exposure to a bloodborne pathogen can happen to anyone in a variety of industries. Dr. Sandra Hardee with Occupational Health Services offered some advice on preventing bloodborne pathogens in the workplace.
“There are some microorganisms present in human blood that are infectious, which means they can cause disease in humans,” said Dr. Hardee. “These are pathogens that we can screen for, or which you can be tested for on your own, but preventing bloodborne pathogens from causing potential infection in the first place is the best way to keep your workplace safe.”
These microorganisms include:
- Hepatitis B (HBV)
- Hepatitis C (HBC)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
While many are familiar with the names of these different pathogens, they may not realize just how infectious they can be. Hepatitis B, for instance, can live for up to a week in dried blood and is a silent infection without obvious symptoms. Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the USA, and without treatment can lead to liver failure or become life-threatening. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and infection lasts for life.
Dr. Hardee noted that while the most common exposure involves needle sticks in a health care setting, there are plenty of other opportunities for infection throughout different industries, like cuts from other sharp objects, sanitation workers being stuck by needles when handling trash or contact of mucous membranes or broken skin with contaminated blood.
Dr. Hardee explained how OSHA guidelines can help your workplace correctly take action to prevent bloodborne pathogens from causing potential risks to the workforce, what steps to take after exposure and when to seek medical care and testing to see if you’ve been infected.
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