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This is the first in a series of blog posts that will highlight OSHA's guidelines and manuals relating to bloodborne pathogens.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) requires employers to make immediate confidential medical evaluation and follow-up available for workers who have an exposure incident, such as a needlestick. An exposure incident is a specific eye, mouth, other mucous membrane, non-intact skin, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), as defined in the standard that results from the performance of a worker’s duties.
Reporting an Exposure Incident
Exposure incidents should be reported immediately to the employer since they can lead to infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or other bloodborne pathogens. When a worker reports an exposure incident right away, the report permits the employer to arrange for immediate medical evaluation of the worker. Early reporting is crucial for beginning immediate intervention to address possible infection of the worker and can also help the worker avoid spreading bloodborne infections to others. Furthermore, the employer is required to perform a timely evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the exposure incident to find ways of preventing such a situation from occurring again.
Reporting is also important because part of the follow-up includes identifying the source individual, unless the employer can establish that identification is infeasible or prohibited by state or local law, and determining the source’s HBV and HIV infectivity status. If the status of the source individual is not already known, the employer is required to test the source’s blood as soon as feasible, provided the source individual consents. If the individual does not consent, the employer must establish that legally required consent cannot be obtained. If state or local law allows testing without the source individual’s consent, the employer must test the individual’s blood, if it is available. The results of these tests must be made available to the exposed worker and the worker must be informed of the laws and regulations about disclosing the source’s identity and infectious status.