When the Zika virus began making headlines, the message was that Americans were relatively safe unless they travelled internationally. But new information about the virus has emerged at a dizzying pace. It seems the only thing we know for certain about Zika is that we don’t fully understand it or its potential impact.
That’s why it is critical that you comply with 29 CFR 1910.1030, OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard. The standard protects workers who can reasonably be anticipated to come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) as a result of doing their jobs. Here are a few highlights from the standard.
Use universal precautions. In layman’s terms, treat all human blood and OPIM as if it is infectious for bloodborne pathogens.
Documentation is key. Put your bloodborne pathogen program in writing. Update it annually, and document that you have considered and begun using appropriate, commercially-available effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure.
Train employees on the program. Training is a core element of any successful injury and illness prevention program. OSHA requires you to train your employees on your bloodborne pathogen program on initial assignment, at least annually thereafter, and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure. Again, remember to document that you provided the training.
Engineering controls are still king. Engineering controls are the best way to protect employees from any hazard, including bloodborne pathogens. Engineering controls remove the hazard at its source. Examples include providing needless systems, sharps disposal containers and self-sheathing needles. The second-most effective hazard control strategy is to change the way employees do the job. Finally, personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns and masks, are the least-effective protection against hazards. They should always be your last line of defense.
Make post-exposure evaluation available. Evaluation and follow-up must be at no cost to the worker. The health care professional will provide a limited written opinion to the employer, and all diagnoses must remain confidential.
More information For more information, refer to OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen Web page, and download a sample bloodborne pathogen program.
ESO WC GROUP
VFIS of Texas