With all the news coverage of the Ebola scare in recent weeks, many workplaces and individuals are wondering how and if they should prepare for this new threat. In part one of a 3-part series, we will hear from Donna Wishart, a CPR/First Aid/AED trainer we have partnered with in the Tampa area. Donna addresses the importance of bloodborne pathogen training, and why it should be an integral part of your workforce training regimen. She also talks about the greatest risk for bloodborne pathogen exposure, and it might not be what you think!
Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens could happen on any school campus, office environment, construction site … at any time, and on any given day.
Consider for a moment how often school teachers encounter students that have suffered a bloody nose during class. Or how frequently employees sustain cuts, scrapes, or even bleeding injuries. Also, staff becoming ill and vomiting at work. It may not be the most glamorous part of an employee’s job, but it’s vital that staff learn and understand how to properly handle bloodborne pathogen exposures to aid others while protecting themselves. Bloodborne pathogen exposure training is one of the most crucial parts of a staff member’s job, which is why it’s an annual safety-training requirement for most employees across the country.
Bloodborne pathogens, which are commonly referred to as “BBPs,” can be bacterial (i.e. staph or strep) or viral (i.e. flu, colds, hepatitis A, B, or C, Ebola and HIV). BBPs are present in blood and other body fluids, and can be transmitted when blood or body fluids from a contaminated person enters another person’s body through cuts, abrasions, or body cavities (such as the mouth, eyes, or nose). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 300,000 new cases of BBP exposure reported each year, but the greatest risk to personnel is from the hepatitis B virus. It is particularly crucial to focus on protection and prevention in regards to hepatitis B, because the signs and symptoms of the virus may not manifest for a long time – often weeks or months. Hepatitis B can cause liver inflammation, vomiting, jaundice and sometimes even death. Chronic hepatitis B may eventually cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, a fatal disease with very poor response to current chemotherapy treatment. The CDC also estimates there are three million people currently infected with hepatitis C and most of them don’t even know it yet! That is why it is essential for staff to be educated and diligent in protecting themselves from any BBP exposure.
No matter the position and its particular duties, the risk of encountering an accident involving bodily fluids on the job, such as blood, is always present for most employees. Any human body fluid containing blood can carry BBPs. A key prevention strategy is to always exercise universal precautions – a series of precautionary measures designed to prevent against the transmission of bloodborne pathogens. One example of universal precautions would be the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as disposable gloves, masks, gowns when handling blood or other body fluids.
Donna Wishart is the owner of Wishart Safety Training, Inc., a local partner with Ritz Safety in the Tampa, FL area. Wishart Safety Training currently offers nationally accredited Bloodborne Pathogens training courses for all types of organizations. The course is designed to teach employees how to avoid accidental exposures and how to manage an accidental exposure if one occurs. They issue a two year certification card upon completion of the class.
Be sure to check out part two of this series, for some information about how Ebola spreads, and how to stay safe.