Knowing in advance all that you can learn about bloodborne pathogens and how the improper handling of same can be dangerous to your personal health is your first defense in being protected. Also, have a clear understanding that your employer is required by state/provincial law to provide each employee with the proper protective gear and education as part of their adherence to the OSHA standards. Consider taking additional courses offered at Universities on certification with Bloodborne pathogens to add an extra layer of self-protection and proactiveness.
When taking bloodborne pathogen awareness courses, you will most certainly learn about PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Using this equipment properly regardless of situation can make all the difference from a prevention standpoint against bloodborne pathogens. Wearing protective gloves any time you’re near or poised to encounter bodily fluids is the first line of defense against disease contraction. Not only should you be wearing gloves when providing first aid and patient care, but also when handling any soiled bedding/clothing, cleaning surfaces which may be contaminated, and when handling garbage that could contain bodily fluids or contaminated materials. Whenever possible, wearing masks and goggles should be exercised to avoid contamination from splashing fluids, or from the possibility of them entering your respiratory system and or bloodstream.
Hygiene is Non-Negotiable:
Not unlike what you’ve been told your entire life, washing your hands frequently is not optional, but rather essential- especially when you are a person who has a greater chance of potential exposure to other people’s bodily fluids. If you’ve taken a bloodborne pathogens safety course, you would have been taught that washing any contaminated skin including hands is essential; using hot soapy water and vigorous scrubbing could prove the deciding factor between contracting a bloodborne illness or staying well and healthy. Referring to the OSHA standards, all employers are required to provide an easily-accessible designated hand-washing station for each on-staff employee; if you’re not aware of where these exist in your workplace, consult with your supervisor. Awareness is key!
It likely needs not to be stated, but how you choose to dispose of contaminated materials is equally important as using them properly. Prior to leaving the area you were working in and using the PPE, ensure you’ve removed all equipment (masks and gloves, etc) and disposed of them securely and properly. Your employer should also be providing an adequate and properly labeled storage facility or containers where you can clean, decontaminate and dispose of used items. Ensure you are referring to the specific information you’ve been given by your employer as well as any instruction you’ve learned in Bloodborne pathogens courses you’ve taken.
Common Sense Approach:
Bear in mind that when it comes to bloodborne pathogen exposure, all equipment, instructions, and training available will be rendered useless if you don’t put what you’ve been trained on to practical use. By exercising common sense, this means taking a minute or two to assess the situation, determine what your best course of action is, and using provided materials and means to end any possible dangers and to provide the necessary care. Further, educate yourself so you feel very equipped to deal with any situation you’re presented with.
Keeping the PACT acronym at the forefront of your mind will help you make clear-headed decisions and stay alert. P for PROTECTING yourself from bloodborne pathogens; A for the ACT when exposed to contaminated materials or blood, C for CLEAN affected areas and yourself to avoid a risk of infection, and T for TELL your employer anytime you’ve been potentially exposed in your place of work.
Knowing how best to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens can make a crucial difference in whether you are endangered by possible illnesses or if you’re instead protected against them. If you are being employed in a service-industry, or just wish to be proactively prepared in case of emergencies, consider taking a Bloodborne Pathogens course at your local University or training institute.