5.2 Blood-Borne Pathogens

Safety, Health, and Environmental Manual


These are best practice guidelines regarding occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. These guidelines will help eliminate or minimize occupational exposure to hepatitis B virus (HBV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and other blood-borne pathogens (diseases transmitted by blood).

5.2.1 Scope

These guidelines apply to employees who experience occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Occupational exposure means that an employee can reasonably anticipate skin, eye, or mucous membrane contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials while performing the duties of his or her job.

Not all exposures to blood and other potentially infectious materials are considered occupational exposures. For example, Good Samaritan acts, such as helping another employee who has a nosebleed or who is bleeding as the result of an accident, would not be considered occupational exposure unless the employee who helps is a designated member of a first-aid team or is expected to render first aid as part of his or her job responsibilities.

5.2.2 Determining Exposure

Managers and supervisors should follow these guidelines to determine employees whose job classifications may require exposure to blood-borne pathogens.

Job classifications in which all employees have occupational exposure include employees in medical clinics and members of designated first-aid teams or employees who are expected to render first aid or medical assistance as one of their duties.

Job classifications in which some employees have occupational exposure include staff working closely with clients in sheltered workshops for people with developmental disabilities. These employees have an increased risk due to their clients’ vulnerability to injury, special medical needs, and dependence on the staff for personal care.

5.2.3 Methods of Compliance

For employees in job classifications with occupational exposure, managers and supervisors should make reasonable efforts to be sure:

  • Employees have the following:

    • Guidelines for washing hands

    • Guidelines for handling contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps

    • Guidelines for using gloves, pocket masks, or other ventilation devices

  • If available, the hepatitis B vaccine should be offered to all employees who experience occupational exposure. Employees who are designated as first-aid providers should be offered the hepatitis B vaccine before they are exposed.

  • Employees who decline the vaccination should sign a copy of the Hepatitis B Vaccine Declination Form, which should be placed in their employment file for the duration of their employment.

  • If an employee is exposed and has not received the hepatitis B vaccine, he or she should see a physician as soon as possible (no more than 24 hours after exposure) to be evaluated for possible hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV viral infection.

  • When there is an exposure incident, confidential medical evaluations should be made available to the exposed employee at no cost to the employee. The physician should document the routes of exposure and the circumstances under which the exposure incident occurred.

  • Warning labels should be placed on containers of regulated waste, on refrigerators and freezers containing blood, and on containers used to store, transport, or ship blood or other potentially infectious materials. Regulated waste should be disposed of in accordance with local health regulations.

  • Employees should be trained. The training should be free and held during working hours. Training records should be kept and maintained.