Written by Steve Hudgik
Universal Precautions is OSHA's required method of control to protect employees from exposure to human blood and OPIM (Other Potentially Infectious Material). The term, "Universal Precautions," refers to a system of bloodborne disease control which requires all human blood and certain human body fluids to be treated as if they are infectious for HIV, HBV or other bloodborne pathogens.
Yes. Body Substance Isolation is a control method that defines all body fluids and substances as infectious. BSI incorporates not only the fluids and materials covered by the OSHA standard, but also expands coverage to include all body substances. BSI is an acceptable alternative to Universal Precautions, provided that facilities utilizing BSI adhere to all other provisions of the OSHA standard.
OSHA requires that a warning label, that includes the universal biohazard symbol followed by the term "biohazard," be included on:
In addition, any contaminated equipment which is to be serviced or shipped must have a readily observable label with the biohazard symbol and the word "biohazard" along with a statement identifying the portions of the equipment that are contaminated.
The label must be fluorescent orange, or predominantly orange-red, with the biohazard symbol and lettering in a contrasting color. The label must either be an integral part of the container or attached as close as feasible to the container by adhesive, wire, string or other method that assures the label will remain in place. Using adhesive labels made with tough-tested DuraLabel vinyl supplies is a good option for most containers.
Yes. Labeling is not required for:
Question: Universal precautions apply to those who have contact with patients diagnosed with or suspected of having HIV or hepatitis B. Is the use of personal protective equipment required when there is no reasonably anticipated exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials? For example, dressing a wound would require the wearing of a glove, but, as a general rule, bathing a patient would not.
Answer from OSHA: The incidence of disease from HIV, Hepatitis B and other bloodborne pathogens has increased in recent years, in many cases from contact with patients whom were not diagnosed or suspected of having HIV or Hepatitis B. It is OSHA's belief that practicing Universal Precautions will reverse this trend. The use of Universal Precautions alone is expected to prevent thousands of deaths of workers who have contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. Using gloves for all contact with blood, rather than just for contact with diagnosed patients, must become a standard procedure. The health care worker does not have to evaluate the patient. The patient does not have added concerns that his treatment is markedly different from others. All patients are treated equally.
The use of Universal Precautions is a key element in every bloodborne pathogen program. OSHA maintains that not using Universal Precautions will be considered a serious violation of OSHA standards.
Question: Do "Universal Precautions" apply to dental facilities?
Answer: Yes. According to the OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, "Universal Precautions" is an universal approach to infection control. The underlying concept of Universal Precautions is that all human blood and certain human body fluids are to be treated as they were infectious for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens." OSHA 1910.1030(b) and (d)(1) require that Universal Precautions be followed to prevent contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. This would include the handling of PPE that has become contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) in medical and dental facilities.
Question: Does an off-site facility, such as a commercial laundry facility which handles contaminated linen from a health care facility, required to have a written exposure control plan?
Answer: Yes. Employers with employees who launder or otherwise handle linen contaminated with blood or OPIM are considered to have reasonably anticipated exposure to blood or OPIM. They are covered by the OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and Universal Precautions must be used. Such employers are required to establish a written exposure control plan designed to eliminate or minimize employee exposure.
Question: Is it permissible for employees to launder personal protective equipment like scrubs, or other clothing worn close to the skin, at home?
Answer: It is unacceptable for contaminated PPE to be laundered at home by employees. However employees' uniforms, or scrubs which are usually worn in a manner similar to street clothes, are generally not intended to be PPE and are, therefore, not expected to be contaminated with blood or OPIM.
Universal Precautions is an approach to infection control that treats all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious for HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens. When you are not sure, then use Universal Precautions. It's a standard that protects you, those you work with, and your family.
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