Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan & Protocol

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

OSHA requires employers to develop and implement exposure control plans to maximize the safety of their employees. In this lesson, we'll learn about exposure control plans and how they are developed and used.

Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

Mary works as a nurse at a busy hospital. She has been trained how to safely perform the tasks involved in her daily jobs as a nurse, but sometimes things get hectic and mistakes happen. Mary was treating a patient when she accidentally pricked her finger with a needle she had just finished using on the patient. Shoot! Luckily, Mary knew the hospital had an Exposure Control Plan in place, and she had received training on what to do in a scenario like this. Mary got the plan out and proceeded to go through its steps to make sure she was safe after the accident.

These types of accidents happen a lot, especially in the healthcare field, putting healthcare workers at risk of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms that can get into the body and wreak havoc; they cause diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), so it's important to take precaution when treating an infected patient.

A magnified image of the hepatitis C virus, a bloodborne pathogen.
Hepatitis C Virus

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency tasked with keeping people safe in the workplace, and one of OSHA's regulations is the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, which outlines what steps an employer must take to prevent employees from unnecessary exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Exposure Control Plans

One requirement of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard states that each employer must develop and implement an exposure control plan. The goal of an exposure control plan is to train employees in procedures that act to eliminate or at least minimize incidents that expose them to bloodborne pathogens.

Specifically, when making an exposure control plan, the employer must include the following information:

  • A summary of each job position's risk status, including the specific tasks that could cause an exposure incident
  • An outline of the methods in place to prevent exposure incidents
  • A description of training that takes place to educate employees on avoiding exposure
  • A protocol to be followed if an exposure incident occurs, including follow-up treatment and tests
  • A description of how an exposure incident will be evaluated to learn what went wrong so the event is not repeated
  • A description of how records will be kept in accordance with the plan
  • An outline of hepatitis B vaccination information, including how it will be made available to all employees

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