All workers in general--and health and cleaning professionals in particular--need to be aware of potential health hazards and take preventative measures to protect themselves and others. This article focuses on the best practices for minimizing exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
It is important to approach any situation involving blood (and certain other body fluids) with universal precaution; that is, consider all blood to be potentially infectious, then take precautions to minimize the risk of exposure. Taking universal precaution is the smart, respectful and caring way to prevent the spread of human disease by bloodborne pathogens. OSHA has formalized this standard of behavior by requiring a Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan for any workplace with reasonable expectation of exposure. If you are an employee in such a workplace, be sure to read your plan. If you are a cleaning professional, always use universal precaution and be sure to observe the following practices.
When your job frequently brings you into potential contact with body fluids, always use protective practices. Your best plan of attack is to arm yourself with readily available equipment in good condition, to strategically avoid increasing risk, and to achieve containment and decontamination. Always use appropriate gear: disposable gloves, eye protection, face masks, tongs to pick up sharp objects that may be contaminated, and spill kits to absorb body fluids. Avoid endangering actions: never smoke, eat, drink or apply lip balm in areas of possible exposure; never manually compress filled trash bags; never reuse a sponge or towel used for infectious cleanup; handle contaminated laundry as little as possible; and never splash or splatter during cleanup. To effectively achieve decontamination, remove clean and disinfect both the areas affected and the equipment used for cleaning; remove and dispose of protective equipment in labeled infectious waste containers; and thoroughly wash your hands.
If you feel you have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens, notify your supervisor and follow your in-house protocol. Because HBV and HIV symptoms may not appear until even years after the exposure incident, contact your health care provider immediately if you think you are at risk.