OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In this lesson, we will briefly examine the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's bloodborne pathogen standards affecting healthcare employers.

OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Sally is a new nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital. As part of her onboarding training, she is briefed on OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards to inform her of the hospital's responsibilities and what services it provides to protect employees from exposure to diseases that can be acquired by coming into contact with patient bodily fluids. Let's take a look with her at some of the highlights of OSHA guidance.

It will help Sally to have a bit of background information before proceeding. OSHA is the Occupational Safety & Health Administration; it is a federal agency whose regulations regarding bloodborne pathogens apply to all private and government employers whose employees come into contact with potentially infectious materials. Bloodborne pathogens are germs that can be transmitted by having blood or other bodily fluids come into contact with someone else's bloodstream.

Employer Planning

OSHA requires Sally's hospital to create a written compliance plan to identify situations where workers may come into contact with bodily fluids and how to reduce or eliminate exposures. This plan must be updated each year.

Providing the training and resources to enforce universal precautions reinforces the idea that all blood and bodily fluids must be treated as if those substances are contaminated. The hospital must integrate specific control factors, such as purchasing needle equipment that comes with attached safety devices and providing safe disposal containers for sharp objects. OSHA requires potential hazard sites to be clearly labeled, such as identifying the disposal containers for bloody clothes or bandages.

Documentation is also an important consideration. The hospital must maintain records of employee training regarding bloodborne pathogens and keep logs of any potential exposures. Any employer training must be given at a level commensurate with the employee's education level and provide the opportunity for employees to ask questions regarding OSHA's standards.

Employee Considerations

Sally plays a significant role in complying with OSHA's bloodborne pathogen standards to maintain her own safety and that of her patients. She must use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as goggles, gowns, and gloves, to avoid coming into contact with potentially contaminated fluids. Her institution is responsible for providing and maintaining this equipment at no cost to her. The hospital must also provide Sally with a hepatitis B vaccination free of charge.

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