#15 Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA regulations limit occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials since any exposure could result in the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, which could lead to disease or death. OSHA regulations cover all employees who could be “reasonably anticipated” to come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials as a result of performing their job duties. OSHA has not attempted to list all occupations where exposure could occur. “Good Samaritan” acts such as helping a co-worker with a nosebleed would not be considered an occupational exposure.


Infectious materials include semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovia fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva, body fluid visibly contaminated with blood and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids. They also include any unfixed tissue or organs other than intact skin from a human (living of dead) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) containing cells or tissue cultures, organ cultures and HIV or Hepatitis B (HBV) containing culture medium or other solutions as well as blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV. New diseases and viruses are being discovered every day. Make yourself aware of other deadly viruses, which can be transmitted through blood: Avian Flu (H5N1), Hepatitis C (HCV), SARS.


Universal Precautions
Universal precautions are methods of protecting yourself from bloodborne pathogens. Universal precautions assume all body fluids are infected with bloodborne pathogens. Universal precautions include:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – to be used at all times to prevent skin or mucous membrane contact with bodily fluids. Always inspect PPE for cracks, holes or other damage. Never use damaged PPE. PPE examples include lab coats, gloves, eye goggles, face shields, etc.
  • Wash hands or other skin surfaces thoroughly and immediately if contaminated.

When using sharp items (scalpels, needles, pipettes, etc.) that may be potentially contaminated, a puncture resistant container must be used for storage and disposal after use.