Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA estimates more than 5.6 million workers are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. All occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) place workers at risk for infection with bloodborne pathogens.

So, what are bloodborne pathogens? They are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease when transmitted from an infected individual to another person through blood and certain body fluids.

Workers in many different occupations are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS. First aid team members, housekeeping personnel in some settings, nurses, and other healthcare providers are examples of workers who may be at risk of exposure.

Employers are required to provide annual training to any employee that has a potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens. In addition, each employer must establish an Exposure Control Plan (ECP) for each worksite.

Bloodborne pathogens can cause serious illnesses and even death.  The most common illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens are:

  • Hepatitis B (HPV)
  • Hepatitis C (HCV)
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) from HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus

Transmitting Bloodborne Pathogens

The transmission of bloodborne pathogens from one person to another occurs through the transfer of infected body fluids.

Common body fluids which can transmit pathogens include:

  • blood
  • cerebral spinal fluid
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions

Semen and vaginal secretions can transmit bloodborne pathogens, but only during sexual contact.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment is designed to keep blood and other potentially infectious material away from your skin, eyes, and mouth.

Examples of PPE include:

  • disposable gloves
  • gowns
  • laboratory coats
  • protective face shields
  • resuscitation masks or shields
  • mouth pieces

In other words, any equipment necessary to prevent exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material is considered PPE.

Exposure Control Plan (ECP)

An employer exposure control plan (ECP) is a requirement of 29 CFR 1910.1030(c) of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The purpose of the ECP is to establish procedures to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

For more information on creating an ECP, please see OSHAcademy’s free online safety course:  755 Bloodborne Pathogen Program Management.