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This is the third in a series of blog posts that will highlight OSHA's guidelines and manuals relating to bloodborne pathogens.
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms present in blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens are at risk for serious or life-threatening illnesses.
Protections Provided by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
All of the requirements of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard can be found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1030. The standard’s requirements state what employers must do to protect workers who are occupationally exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), as defined in the standard. That is, the standard protects workers who can reasonably be anticipated to come into contact with blood or OPIM as a result of doing their job duties.
In general, the standard requires employers to:
Establish an exposure control plan. This is a written plan to eliminate or minimize occupational exposures. The employer must prepare an exposure determination that contains a list of job classifications in which all workers have occupational exposure and a list of job classifications in which some workers have occupational exposure, along with a list of the tasks and procedures performed by those workers that result in their exposure.
Employers must update the plan annually to reflect changes in tasks, procedures, and positions that affect occupational exposure, and also technological changes that eliminate or reduce occupational exposure. In addition, employers must annually document in the plan that they have considered and begun using appropriate, commercially-available effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure. Employers must also document that they have solicited input from frontline workers in identifying, evaluating, and selecting effective engineering and work practice controls.
Implement the use of universal precautions (treating all human blood and OPIM as if known to be infectious for bloodborne pathogens).
Identify and use engineering controls. These are devices that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace. They include sharps disposal containers, selfsheathing needles, and safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps-injury protection and needleless systems.
Identify and ensure the use of work practice controls. These are practices that reduce the possibility of exposure by changing the way a task is performed, such as appropriate practices for handling and disposing of contaminated sharps, handling specimens, handling laundry, and cleaning contaminated surfaces and items.
Provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks. Employers must clean, repair, and replace this equipment as needed. Provision, maintenance, repair and replacement are at no cost to the worker.