Bloodborne Pathogens

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that about 5.6 million workers in health care and other facilities are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as the human immuno-deficiency (HIV) and hepatitis B (HBV) viruses and other potentially infectious materials. Workers who have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens include, but are not limited to, nurses, physicians, dentists and other dental workers, laboratory and blood bank technologists and technicians, medical examiners, morticians, phlebotomists, emergency room personnel, intensive care and operating room nurses and technicians, orderlies, housekeeping personnel, and laundry workers.

Others also at risk include law enforcement personnel, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and anyone whose job might require providing first-response medical care in which there is a reasonable expectation of contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.

OSHA's bloodborne pathogens (BBP) standard, §1910.1030, prescribes safeguards to protect workers against the health hazards from exposure to blood and certain body fluids that may contain bloodborne pathogens and to reduce their exposure risk.

The information in this chapter summarizes the requirements of the bloodborne pathogens standard; provides answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning BBP compliance; and contains a sample exposure control plan. Compliance information from OSHA on how they are enforcing the standard is also included.

Employers having employees who are at risk of bloodborne pathogens exposure are required to prepare a written exposure control program. The plan must evaluate routine tasks and procedures in the workplace that involve exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM); identify workers performing such tasks; and use a variety of methods to reduce the risks.

OSHA's standard specifies the need for engineering and work practice controls; personal protective equipment; housekeeping procedures; post-exposure evaluation and follow-up; recordkeeping; and communicating hazards to personnel. The ultimate goal is to provide safe working conditions that protect employees from unnecessary exposure to bloodborne pathogens health hazards.

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