In Part 1 of 2, Curriculum Developer Jenna Kressler discussed the stigma that is attached to people in the workplace who have blood borne diseases. She also discusses at-risk occupations, the obligation to disclose the illness to the employer, and privacy rights and entitlements under the AODA when it comes to disclosure.
In Part 2 of 2, we will examine what’s required to protect workers from the risk of contracting a blood borne disease.
Who is at Risk of Blood Borne Diseases in the Workplace?
Recall that in Part 1, we listed the following occupations as at higher risk of contracting blood borne diseases:
- Healthcare workers
- Laboratory workers
- Emergency responders
- Correctional facility workers
- Dental workers
- Tattoo artists
How do Employers Protect Workers from Blood Borne Diseases?
Exposure Control Plans:
When workers are exposed to blood borne risks, employers must put an exposure control plan in place that serves to eliminate or minimize exposures, outline specific tasks that may result in exposure, and then implement a plan that controls those risks. It must be workplace-specific, accessible to all at-risk workers, and updated and reviewed annually.
If there is any exposure or potential exposure to sharps in the workplace, sharps containers need to be in place. In the healthcare field, consider the use of self-sheathing needles or needleless systems where appropriate.
Administrative controls include policies, procedures, and program elements placed with the intention of protecting workers. Examples include cleaning protocols, disposal processes, and proper recording and retaining of documentation. It also includes signage, labels, vaccination programs, and/or, awareness programs. Training is also a very important, sometimes overlooked, administrative control. Training must include the following:
- Details of the exposure control plan
- High-risk activities that may result in exposure
- Use and limitations of hazard controls
- Types, use, location, handling, decontamination, and disposal procedures for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Information on vaccines
- Emergency response procedures
- Post-exposure procedures
- Signs and labels
These are defined as a set of strategies developed to prevent the transmission of blood borne pathogens. Universal precautions are the practice of avoiding contact with bodily fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid, and/or amniotic fluid.
Hand hygiene is about more than just solid hand-washing practices. It’s also about proper and appropriate use and wear of bandages, gloves, rings, and nail polish. Keeping hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth, and avoiding touching potentially contaminated surfaces is another component of hand-washing.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is designed to protect workers from transmission of any bodily fluid that may cause harm. PPE includes masks, gloves, gowns, lab coats, and safety glasses. All of these may be required, or any combination. If PPE use is required, the employer must ensure that the appropriate PPE is provided, maintained in good working condition, and that training on its use is provided to all workers who use or may use the equipment.
Risk of exposure to a blood borne hazard does not mean that it is certain that a blood borne illness will result. If hazard controls are placed and followed, the risk of contracting a blood borne disease can be mitigated or eliminated, resulting in safer workplaces for everyone.
OSG can Help!
If you have questions about blood borne diseases, how to protect workers, or the employer’s obligations, OSG can help. We have been training health and safety courses for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of health and safety training in Ontario. If you have any questions about blood borne diseases in the workplace, call 1-800-815-9980 to speak to a Health and Safety expert, or view our training program today!
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator