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October 25, 2004
Bloodborne Pathogens: A Far-Reaching Issue

Nearly 6 million American workers are at risk for infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. That's why OSHA takes its Bloodborne Pathogen (BBP) Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) so seriously--and, as a safety trainer, so should you. To begin with, all employees whose jobs expose them to infectious diseases must be trained, at no cost to them and during working hours. Training must occur at the time of an employee's initial assignment to a job that may expose him or her to infectious diseases, and at least annually thereafter. Additional training must be given when jobs or procedures are changed or when the nature of the employee's exposure changes. Training material must match employees' education, literacy, and language levels.

Why It Matters...
  • OSHA's BBP Standard was one of the top 10 most frequently violated standards in FY 2004, with penalties that totaled almost $900,000.
  • An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 needlestick and other sharps injuries are reported each year, but the actual number is probably much higher.
  • The risk of contracting hepatitis B from exposure to infected blood may be as high as 30 percent.

Make sure you're not leaving anything out. Review the training provisions of the OSHA standard, which are summarized here:

  • A copy of the BBP Standard with an explanation of what it requires
  • General explanations of infectious diseases, their symptoms, and how they are transmitted
  • An explanation of your company's written Exposure Control Plan.
  • Description of the hazards of infectious diseases associated with different jobs
  • Information on how to reduce the risk of exposure, including engineering controls, work practices, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • How to select, use, store, remove, handle, decontaminate, and dispose of PPE
  • Information on vaccination against hepatitis B
  • What to do in an emergency involving blood or other potentially infectious materials
  • What to do if exposed, including reporting and medical follow-up
  • Signs, labels, and color-coding relevant to infectious materials
  • An opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the trainer

Emphasize engineering controls and work practices. While PPE is vitally important, the first line of defense against infection is to use equipment and methods designed to lessen the risk of exposure in the first place. A prominent example is preventing injuries from needlesticks and other sharps--one of the leading causes of exposure. As new devices that reduce the need to handle sharps become available, employees should be immediately trained in how to use them properly. Similarly, they need to know the best work practices for handling, storing, and properly and safely disposing of sharps.

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