PPE, Work Practices and Engineering Controls
It is extremely important to use personal protective equipment and work practice controls to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens.
"Universal/Standard Precautions" is the name used to describe a prevention strategy in which all blood and potentially infectious materials are treated as if they are, in fact, infectious, regardless of the perceived status of the source individual. In other words, whether or not you think the blood/body fluid is infected with bloodborne pathogens, you treat it as if it is. This approach is used in all situations where exposure to blood or potentially infectious materials is possible. This also means that certain engineering and work practice controls shall always be utilized in situations where exposure may occur.
Personal Protective Equipment
Probably the first thing to do in any situation where you may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens is to ensure you are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, you may have noticed that emergency medical personnel, doctors, nurses, dentists, dental assistants, and other health care professionals always wear latex or protective gloves. This is a simple precaution they take in order to prevent blood or potentially infectious body fluids from coming in contact with their skin. To protect yourself, it is essential to have a barrier between you and the potentially infectious material.
Rules to follow:
- Always wear personal protective equipment in exposure situations.
- Remove PPE that is torn or punctured, or has lost its ability to function as a barrier to bloodborne pathogens.
- Replace PPE that is torn or punctured.
- Remove PPE before leaving the work area.
If you work in an area with routine exposure to blood or potentially infectious materials, the necessary PPE should be readily accessible. Contaminated gloves, clothing, PPE, or other materials should be placed in appropriately labeled bags or containers until it is disposed of, decontaminated, or laundered. It is important to find out where these bags or containers are located in your area before beginning your work.
Gloves should be made of latex, nitril, rubber, or other water impervious materials. If glove material is thin or flimsy, double gloving can provide an additional layer of protection. Also, if you know you have cuts or sores on your hands, you should cover these with a bandage or similar protection as an additional precaution before donning your gloves. You should always inspect your gloves for tears or punctures before putting them on. If a glove is damaged, don't use it! When taking contaminated gloves off, do so carefully. Make sure you don't touch the outside of the gloves with any bare skin, and be sure to dispose of them in a proper container so that no one else will come in contact with them, either. (Bloodborne spill kits are equipped with latex gloves. If you have a known allergy to latex, contact the Facilities Office for alternative measures, Ext. 7333)
- Always check your gloves for damage
before using them:
Anytime there is a risk of splashing or vaporization of contaminated fluids, goggles and/or other eye protection should be used to protect your eyes. Again, bloodborne pathogens can be transmitted through the thin membranes of the eyes so it is important to protect them. Splashing could occur while cleaning up a spill, during laboratory procedures, or while providing first aid or medical assistance.
Face shields may be worn in addition to goggles to provide additional face protection. A face shield will protect against splashes to the nose and mouth.
Aprons may be worn to protect your clothing and to keep blood or other contaminated fluids from soaking through to your skin.
Normal clothing that becomes contaminated with blood should be removed as soon as possible because fluids can seep through the cloth to come into contact with skin. Contaminated laundry should be handled as little as possible, and it should be placed in an appropriately labeled bag or container until it is decontaminated, disposed of, or laundered.
Remember to use Universal/Standard Precautions and treat all blood or potentially infectious body fluids as if they are contaminated. Avoid contact whenever possible, and whenever it's not, wear personal protective equipment. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to come in contact with blood or other body fluids and you don't have any standard personal protective equipment handy, you can improvise. Use a towel, plastic bag, or some other barrier to help avoid direct contact.
Handwashing is one of the most important (and easiest) practices used to prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens. Hands or other exposed skin should be thoroughly washed as soon as possible following an exposure incident. Use soft, antibacterial soap, if possible. Avoid harsh, abrasive soaps, as these may open fragile scabs or other sores.
Hands should also be washed immediately (or as soon as feasible) after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment.
Because handwashing is so important, you should familiarize yourself with the location of the handwashing facilities nearest to you. Laboratory sinks, public restrooms, janitor closets, and so forth may be used for handwashing if they are normally supplied with soap. If you are working in an area without access to such facilities, you may use an antiseptic cleanser in conjunction with clean cloth/paper towels or antiseptic towelettes. If these alternative methods are used, hands should be washed with soap and running water as soon as possible.If you are working in an area where there is reasonable likelihood of exposure, you should never:
- Apply cosmetics or lip balm
- Handle contact lenses
No food or drink should be kept in refrigerators, freezers, shelves, cabinets, or on counter tops where blood or potentially infectious materials are present.
You should also try to minimize the amount of splashing, spraying, splattering, and generation of droplets when performing any procedures involving blood or potentially infectious materials, and you should NEVER pipette or suction these materials by mouth.
Decontamination and Sterilization
All surfaces, tools, equipment and other objects that come in contact with blood or potentially infectious materials must be decontaminated and sterilized as soon as possible. Equipment and tools must be cleaned and decontaminated before servicing or being put back to use.
Decontamination should be accomplished by using
- A solution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach / Clorox) diluted between 1:10 and 1:100 with water. The standard recommendation is to use at least a quarter cup of bleach per one gallon of water.
- Lysol or some other EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectant. Check the label of all disinfectants to make sure they meet this requirement.
If you are cleaning up a spill of blood, you can carefully cover the spill with paper towels or rags, then gently pour the 10% solution of bleach over the towels or rags, and leave it for at least 10 minutes. This will help ensure that any bloodborne pathogens are killed before you actually begin cleaning or wiping the material up. By covering the spill with paper towels or rags, you decrease the chances of causing a splash when you pour the bleach on it.
If you are decontaminating equipment or other objects (be it scalpels, microscope slides, broken glass, saw blades, tweezers, mechanical equipment upon which someone has been cut, first aid boxes, or whatever) you should leave the disinfectant in place for at least 10 minutes before continuing the cleaning process.
Of course, any materials you use to clean up a spill of blood or potentially infectious materials must be decontaminated immediately, as well. This would include mops, sponges, re-usable gloves, buckets, pails, etc.
Far too frequently, housekeepers, custodians and others are punctured or cut by improperly disposed needles and broken glass. This, of course, exposes them to whatever infectious material may have been on the glass or needle. For this reason, it is especially important to handle and dispose of all sharps carefully in order to protect yourself as well as others.
- Needles must be disposed of in sharps containers.
- Improterly disposed needles can injure housekeepers, custodians, and other people.
- Needles should never be recapped.
- Needles should be moved only by using a mechanical device or tool such as forceps, pliers, or broom and dust pan.
- Never break or shear needles.
- Needles shall be disposed of in labeled sharps
- Sharps containers shall be closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof on sides and bottom, and must be labeled or color-coded.
- When sharps containers are being moved from the area of use, the containers should be closed immediately before removal or replacement to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling or transport.
- Broken glassware that has been visibly contaminated with blood must
be sterilized with an approved disinfectant solution before it is disturbed
or cleaned up.
- Glassware that has been decontaminated may be disposed of in an appropriate sharps container: ie. closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof on sides and bottom, with appropriate labels. (Labels may be obtained from the Facilities Office.)
- Broken glassware will not be picked up directly with the hands. Sweep
or brush the material into a dustpan.
- Uncontaminated broken glassware may be disposed of in a closable, puncture resistant container such as a cardboard box or coffee can.
By using Universal/Standard Precautions and following these simple engineering and work practice controls, you can protect yourself and prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens.