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Safety steps for cleaning blood borne pathogens

In recent years, due to the awareness of Hepatitis B and HIV, there has been more attention given to the safe handling and cleanup of substances that might contain blood borne pathogens.

Blood borne pathogens are pathogenic microorganisms present in human blood that can cause disease. These diseases may be transmitted through any contact with blood or other potentially infectious body fluids.

In 1991 the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimated that more than 5.6 million people working in health care and in public safety could be potentially exposed to these viruses and other blood borne pathogens. They include people working in hospitals' housekeeping and laundry departments, as well as laboratory and blood bank technicians.

To assist in reducing the risk of infection, individuals in these types of professions should be using some form of Universal Precautions. This means treating all blood and other body fluids as if they have been contaminated with a blood borne pathogen. This is done because many people may carry a blood borne infection and never realize it. Even a blood test will not always confirm an infection. This is because there are windows of time when the infection can not be detected in the blood. By treating blood and other body fluids as if they are infectious one will reduce the risk of infection. Therefore, the first safety rule is to treat all blood and other body fluids as if they are infectious.

To further assist in the use of Universal Precautions, a combined effort between the employee and the employer is a must. The employer is required to provide the employee with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, goggles, gowns, and lab coats, etc. The employees, while carrying out their duties around potentially infectious blood or other body fluids, must use this equipment. It is the employee's responsibility to use the PPE each time a task involving blood or other body fluids is performed. Depending on the task being carried out, latex, vinyl or heavy duty utility gloves should always be worn as a barrier between their hands and any infectious materials.

One should replace disposable, single-use gloves as soon as possible once they have been contaminated, torn or damaged in any way. By using the PPE correctly, risk of exposure will drop dramatically.

The second safety rule is always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when dealing with blood or other body fluids.

Using good work practice controls is another way to reduce the risk of exposure. The number one item on the list is good effective hand washing every time gloves or any other type of PPE are removed.

Workers should also wash any skin that may have come in contact with blood or other body fluids with an antimicrobial soap (refer to the Momar ESCORT hand cleaners) and running water. This should be done for at least 30 seconds, remembering to scrub between the fingers, the back of the hand and in and around the fingernails.

If the individual cannot wash his or her hands with soap and water because of location, make available an antiseptic hand cleaner (refer to Momar HAN-I-SIZE) and a towel or towelette to use as a temporary measure.

Other controls are not to eat, drink, smoke, apply cosmetics or lip balms or handle contact lenses when there is a risk of exposure to blood or other body fluids. Finally, never store food and/or drinks in areas, such as refrigerators, freezers or cabinets, or on shelves, countertops or sinks where they may come in contact with blood or other body fluids.

Although a person can be exposed to blood borne pathogens in many different ways, the most common occurrence is by accidental needle sticks. To protect against needle sticks, do not bend, recap, shear or break contaminated needles or any other type of sharps. If you must recap a needle, for medical reasons, use a one-handed method or some type of mechanical device.

Always place contaminated sharps in proper biohazard containers immediately after use. These containers should be well marked, puncture-resistant, leak proof and easily accessible.

The third rule for safety is always use good work practice controls to protect you and others from possible exposures to blood borne pathogens.

Providing and keeping a safe and clean environment will go a long way to protecting one from accidentally being exposed to a blood borne pathogen. Although many people may feel it's housekeeping's responsibility to keep an area clean, it is really everyone's job.

All procedures involving blood or other potentially infectious materials should be performed in such a manner as to minimize any splashing, spraying, spattering, or generation of droplets of these substances.

If you discover a blood or body fluid spill, take action immediately. First, block off the area so others will not come in contact with the spill. Then, while wearing gloves and using a disinfectant solution, spray the spill and the area around the spill where the spill may have splattered.(refer to Momar SAFE!)

The disinfectant should be allowed to stand for at least 10 minutes. Then, using a cloth rag or paper towel, carefully blot up the spill. Once the spill has been removed discard the rags or paper towels into the proper containers. (In some states you may be required to discard these items in a container with the universal infectious waste symbol.)

Then spray the area again with disinfectant solution and thoroughly clean the area using a clean disposable wipe. After the area has been cleaned, remove your gloves and dispose of them into the same container. After that, thoroughly wash your hands using an antimicrobial soap. Failure to clean up blood or other body fluids quickly and correctly may result in exposing other individuals to infections.

Discard any contaminated materials properly such as gloves, towels, etc. Contaminated laundry should be bagged in leak proof bags at the area it was used and should not be sorted or rinsed in the location of use.

Be sure to clean your work surfaces and equipment with a disinfectant cleaner after contact with any potentially infectious material.

Always place contaminated needles or other sharps in the proper container. Remove, replace and safely dispose of these containers before they overfill.

Never pick up broken glass with gloved or bare hands. Instead use tongs, broom or brush and a dustpan.

Finally, be sure you can recognize biohazard warning signs. These signs will warn you when a blood borne hazard is present.

The fourth rule for safety is to promote and provide good housekeeping techniques in all work areas.

The last thing to do to protect everyone from blood borne pathogens is to offer good and proper training and hepatitis B vaccinations.

Training should be provided by the employer, at no cost, and will explain more about blood borne pathogens, how to use PPE and how to report an exposure incident. This training should also explain the rights and responsibilities of workers.

The hepatitis vaccine is administered by three (3) injections over a six-month period and is recommended for all those individuals who are routinely in contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.

These vaccines are safe and very effective. Although there is not a vaccine for HIV at the present time, an employer must make the HBV vaccine available at no cost.

Therefore, the fifth safety rule is to Play it Safe! Request and receive both the training and the vaccine needed to work safely around blood and other body fluids.

By following these five simple safety rules, cleaners can protect themselves and assist others in controlling the spread of blood borne pathogens.

Based on article in Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine,by Michael L. Daughenbaugh, assistant director for environmental services at University of Michigan Health System

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