Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens: The Scary Facts

Frightening fact: unsafe practices and sharps injuries are still leading to transmission and exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

What are bloodborne pathogens and why did OSHA create a formal standard to deal with the hazards? Bloodborne pathogens are an occupational hazard for healthcare workers and other employees who may be exposed to blood and other potentially infectious materials as a result from the performance of their duties. According to OSHA, a bloodborne pathogen simply refers to “…pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans.”

Unsafe medical practices, such as improper injection administration and disposal can lead to increased risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis c, hepatitis b, and HIV, just to name a few.

It’s well known that bloodborne pathogens are a serious environmental and health issue worldwide, which is why the CDC and OSHA have a stringent set of laws, guidelines, and other protocols for healthcare workers and the communities they serve. Some facts and statistics are still rather staggering given the advancement of medical technology and disease control efforts.

Bloodborne Pathogen Facts

  • According to the CDC, the primary pathogens for concern are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

  • According to Occupational and Environmental Medicine, health workers had 60 percent greater odds of getting hepatitis C, and those who worked directly with blood had almost triple the risk.

  • According to OSHA, it’s not just health care staff that are at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens. First responders and housekeeping personnel in some industries are also at risk.

  • According to the American Society for Microbiology, bloodborne pathogen transmission occurs predominantly by percutaneous (effected through the skin) or mucosal exposure of workers to the blood or body fluids of infected patients.

  • According to the report Sharps Injuries Among Hospital Workers, Massachusetts, 2010, more than half of all nurses will experience at least one needlestick during their career.

Healthcare facilities and other institutions that deal with hazardous or medical waste must make it a top priority to prevent the spread of infection. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard came into play following the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000. The standard, if adhered to correctly, provides for reasonable protection against illnesses including Hepatitis B & C, HIV and other bloodborne illnesses.

It’s a known (scary) fact: medical waste can spread disease because it contains high amounts of disease-causing microorganisms. These pathogens make medical waste very dangerous, therefore how medical waste is handled and disposed is part and parcel to the prevention of infection.

Red Bags can help your facility design and implement a safety program that with our online OSHA Compliance Training Program that covers not only infection control, but also safety for your staff when it comes to bloodborne pathogens.

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