Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne Pathogens Narrative by Eddie Evans

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Contents Summary with Links to Narratives

Bloodborn Pathogens consist of microorganisms called "germs" and much more. Since the 1880s we began calling these "germs" by new names like bacteria and even viruses. Viruses came late to the name game, but came early in the scheme of life; we should note here that medical science or biology do not believe that viruses fit a definition of life. They cannot reproduce, an important part of life. Just the same viruses do qualify as bloodborne pathogens.

Our more common bloodborne pathogens, common to humans, consist of Human Immunodeficiency (HIV) and Hepatitis C, two viruses and deadly given the circumstances in their favor. With good training for the right job classifications we should keep a handle on bloodborne pathogens of the more exotic types. Home Health Services comply with the Law of the Land just as independent contractors must comply to the laws regulating their exposure human blood.

Other industries also have unique rules governing exposure to human blood.

although different than medical staff and health services in homes, contractors have their own rules established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Good Samaritan Laws apply to bloodborne pathogen training. Read more here.

Finally, Universal Precautions apply to all of us no matter what our job classification or duties. Got regulated waste? Check out this paragraph then.



Bloodborne Pathogens Narrative by Eddie Evans

Why we need to know about Bloodborne Pathogens.

Bloodborne pathogens means germs. These germs have very tiny bodies and we call these germs microorganisms (These are known as viruses, bacteria, or parasites). We find them in some human blood and they spread to others in blood. So we call them blood borne, meaning carried by blood.

We call these bloodborne germs “pathogens” because they make us sick

.Common Bloodborne Pathogens

Usually we hear about hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from health officials and others involved in disease control. There are other bloodborne pathogens, but these three seem to have the greatest attention. Hepatitis C ranks as number one in my book. Hepatitis C has no cure and some say it remains "alive in the wild for up to 16 days" under certain conditions. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has no reproductive system of its own, like so many other viruses. It hitches a ride in human blood and migrates from one host to another. It infects immune system blood cells in humans and weakens them so they no longer prevent disease.

We know these pathogens transmit along with blood through unprotected contact with human carrying these diseases. This is why we must stay away from accidental blood loss in accidents and elsewhere. There's no telling whose blood may carry these dangerous diseases.

Our United States Congress voted to protect workers from bloodborne pathogens. Then certain jobs involved with blood or other body fluids came under the rule of our U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA). OSHA issued regulations to protect employees from bloodborne pathogens.
These regulations now protect workers in hospitals and other medical environments. We call these regulations our "OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard". Without them some employers could order employees to perform blood cleanup activities without training and proper protections.

Because of our OSHA regulations, we now have a plan to help employees remain safe with training and education. Safety, prevention, and exposure control standards must be observed in many work places.

State, county, or municipal employees
Health care professionals who are sole practitioners
or partners Those who are self-employed
Any employee who has potential for occupational
exposure to blood or OPIM is required to receive



Training applies to health care workers, sole practitioners, partners, and self-employed comes under OSHA standards. So any employees working with a potential for contamination by blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must have standardized training to meet OSHA requirements.

By alerting employees to the importance of on-going training for bloodborne pathogen exposure, they become expert and qualified to help train others with hip-pocket training. This type of training occurs spontaneously during leisure moments and impromptu discussions. Universal precautions, work practice controls, and how to reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Annual training is necessary to ensure employee
safety, but on-going training ensures affective performance in emergency conditions.

Job Classifications

Here's a number of job classifications associated with blood or OPIM Keep in mind that OSHA's standard is not limited to employees in these positions:

Physicians, physician's assistants, nurses, nurse
practitioners, and other health care employees
in clinics and physicians' offices; Employees of clinical and diagnostic laboratories; housekeepers involved in our health care occupations and those working in homes as nurses and hospice caretakers.

Even people in hospital laundries and commercial
laundries that service health care or public safety
institutions must have OSHA training. Then there's tissue bank personnel; employees in blood banks and plasma centers who collect, transport, and test blood; employees who have a potential for occupational exposure to blood or Opium are required to receive training.

Workers in industrial, educational, prisons and jails, and others exposed to blood and OPIM by working around wounds and surgery, and many others must obtain training and remain observant of universal precautions. Of course crime scene cleanup practitioners need protection. Blood cleanup practitioners need protection. Homicide cleanup practitioners need protection; suicide cleanup practitioners need protection, and unattended death cleanup practitioners need protection. (return)

Bloodborne Pathogens
Employees and employers both have responsibility for maintaining work site guidelines and practices.

Employers must provide hepatitis B vaccinations, manage post exposure evaluation and follow-up, and keep records for at least 3 years. They also provide generic training exercises. Employers have a duty to exercise reasonable diligence to make sure workers have work standards and environmental standards in compliance with OSHA regulations.


Accidents happen, and at times employers fail to maintain compliance. When this happens, they need to take steps to have corrections made as soon as possible. It's easy for oversight to occur given the time and circumstances; therefore, routine inspections of documents, training, and work place safety measures must be ensured. 
Among important documents an employer will keep an exposure control plan. This plan clearly explains safety measure required of all personnel. Personal protective equipment for all in need must be kept handy, clean, and ready for use.

Home Health Services
We find a greater number of home health service workers as baby boomers become disabled by age, stroke, and hearth attacks. As a result service workers find greater opportunities to work in this growing field, but they do need protection from bloodborne pathogens.

Whether employees or self-employed, these service workers need to follow guidelines and use personal protective equipment to prevent exposure.


A Law of the Land - Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA does not cover employers for violations in private homes.

Still, housekeeping requirements for more general settings come into play. Maintenance
of a clean and sanitary work site ensure protection from disease transmission when proper handling and disposal of regulated waste occurs. Also, making sure personal protective equipment suits work conditions ensures minimal protection.


Work practices like handwashing handwashing with running water and soap also help control the spread of disease. Using engineering controls helps to keep workers safe from disease. General work clothes (e.g., uniforms, pants, shirts or blouses) do not qualify as personal protective equipment in blood cleanup work for biohazard cleanup work.

Employers must ensure non-site-specific requirements of our OSHA standard receive detailed attention. Among these, we find an exposure control plan providing hepatitis B vaccinations as well as post exposure evaluation and follow-up. Record keeping for provided training in a general format.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors providing a service for a host employer need to remain aware that their fall under the same regulations as the host employer's employees.

Other Industries
Not all industries fall under OSHA regulations. These bloodborne pathogens standards do not apply to construction, agricultural, marine terminal, or longshoremen industries. These industries are not free from hazards found in blood.

Good Samaritan Help
Good Samaritan acts are not covered under the standard. Employees who do not fall within the scope of OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards may experience an exposure at work unrelated to their job duties. Invoking the Good Samaritan help principal relieves employees of OSHA regulation compliance. This means an injured employee may receive help from a Good Samaritan without causing their Good Samaritan to run afoul of legal entanglements with OSHA.

Records that document employee training assist
the employer and OSHA in determining whether
the training program adequately addresses the
risks involved in each job.


Employers must do a periodic, comprehensive review of employees' health to ensure safety from hazardous agents.

Employees with duties related to withdrawal of body fluids after initial venous or arterial access is started; (2) medication or fluids dispenses through the blood stream; and (3) other acts involving the potential for an exposure.

We say that a "reasonably anticipated" critical incident from occupational exposure requires an employee's training and hepatitis B vaccination. Incidents involving skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials create reasonably anticipated incidents, sooner or later.

Such incidents include contact with blood or OPIM (including regulated waste). Needle stick remain the more dangerous and account for about 200 deaths a year in these United States. 
Coverage under this definition also extends to blood and tissues of experimental animals that are infected with HIV or HBV.

Specialized clothing, personal protective equipment, must be worn or used by employees for protection against a bloodborne pathogens during biohazard cleanup. General work clothes (e.g.,
uniforms, pants, shirts or blouses) not intended to
function as protection against a biohazard do not qualify as personal protective equipment.

Regulated Waste

Regulated waste includes medical waste, but not all medical waste qualifies as either infectious waste or biohazardous waste. Medical waste contaminated by wet or moist blood, which releases blood when compressed, qualifies as both infectious and biohazardous waste. Caked, dried blood or other potentially infectious materials also qualify as infectious or biohazardous waste.

Among regulated waste items we find contaminated sharps. Pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials like sharps also pose risks.

We know that objects used or encountered in the industries covered as discussed above can be reasonably anticipated to penetrate the skin or any other part of the body, and to result in an exposure incident, including, but not limited to, needle devices, scalpels, lancets, shattered glass, broken capillary tubes, dental wires, dental knives, drills, and burs.

Universal Precautions 

Universal Precautions means that all human blood and OPIM must be handled as if infected by bloodborne pathogens. These means simple blood loss following a razor nick while shaving creates a condition for Universal Precautions in some settings. Group homes, recovery homes, jail, hospital, and other such settings invoke Universal Precautions even in small blood loss events. We must exaggerate biohazardous conditions whenever, wherever blood from others appears or might exist.

Work practice controls our likelihood
of exposure by changing a task's performance (e.g., stopping recapping of needles with two-hands).