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Having worked in the medical field for 27 years, Bloodborne pathogens are no stranger to my everyday routine. When I first started out, Universal precautions were more of a 'recommendation' and mainly consisted of just a pair of gloves. Fast forward to 2022, where the minimal universal precautions now include gloves, gowns and eye protection.
Cleaning staff face very unique challenges with bloodborne pathogens. Any training received is usually brief and basic. It's not only needlesticks that are concerning, but any body fluids may contain trace amounts of blood and pathogens. Often times, these are not noticeable and pose the same risk of exposure as a needlestick or an obvious contamination. In the healthcare field, while there is a high exposure risk, most workers are isolated to a limited number of patients which can help reduce risk. While cleaning staff are not directly in contact with patients, they come into contact with a greater number of exposure hazards. Many times, these exposures are unable to be traced back to a particular person which leaves the worker with an extended period of treatment and surveillance.
It is the responsibility of companies and supervisors to keep their employees safe and healthy. This includes; proper education, having the proper equipment, proactive training and having a detailed exposure plan. Frequent training is inexpensive and can minimize the risk of exposure. Even something as simple as proper donning and doffing of gloves is have a large impact on risk reduction. Employers need to also address decontamination after working in areas where there is a significant potential for pathogens to exist. Workers can become a vector for transmission simply by brining pathogens into their homes or other places.
Addressing bloodborne pathogens and disease transmission thoroughly is best practice. It's a minimal expense and can protect both the workers and the agency.
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