Bloodborne pathogens (BBP), as its name suggests, are pathogenic microorganisms that cause diseases when transferred from an infected person to another through blood. These microorganisms are capable of causing serious illnesses and in worse cases, death.
Bloodborne pathogens can enter the human body through accidental punctures and abrasions on the skin, or through mucous membranes found in the mouth, nose, or eyes. Some of the most common diseases caused by bloodborne pathogens include HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), Hepatitis B and C, and Syphilis.
You are likely to be exposed to bloodborne pathogens in places such as medical offices, dental offices, clinics, hospitals, restrooms, nursing homes, and funeral homes. But you can take measures to avoid infection. Here are ways on how to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens.
The first defense against bloodborne pathogens is to learn everything there is to know about them. This is especially true if you’re working in the healthcare and cleaning industry.
For example, if you are working in a hospital as a nurse or a janitor, you should know that your employers are legally required to provide proper equipment, training, and education to ensure your protection against exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
You may also opt to enroll in bloodborne pathogens courses or training programs to get clearer instruction and information on the best ways to keep yourself and others safe against these microorganisms.
The safest way to protect yourself against bloodborne pathogens is to never come into contact with blood or any bodily fluids from an infected person. However, that is not always possible.
You can never avoid getting exposed to BPPs especially if you’re working in a hospital and you are required to provide medical assistance to someone who is bleeding or if you are tasked with cleaning up blood spills and stains of bodily fluids. In these situations, the best way to protect yourself against bloodborne pathogens is to use effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
It’s also important to remember that PPEs come in different varieties. Each of these varieties is designed to protect certain parts of the human body. Most importantly, the hands, face, and body.
Knowing what type of PPE to use when working around with blood can help keep you safe. In most cases, gloves are the only PPE required for working around with blood or other body fluids, but for more extreme situations or risky medical procedures, you may need to use all of the PPE listed above.
Besides using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face shields, goggles, gloves, and lab coats, handwashing is also one of the most effective ways of keeping yourself safe from bloodborne pathogens.
Handwashing should never be an optional thing to do. Instead, it must be a habit that must be developed, especially if you are working in an industry where there is a high potential for exposure to other person’s blood or body fluids.
Always make sure that you wash your hands immediately using an antibacterial soap right after removing your PPE. Using a hand sanitizer can also be very helpful in ensuring that you are maximally protected against BPPs after washing your hands.
This goes without saying. You need to dispose of contaminated materials, especially your PPE after using them. Knowing how to dispose of PPE is just as important as knowing how to use them. Your PPE, especially the gloves and face masks, should only be used once and should be disposed of right away after using them.
Before you leave the area you’re working, be sure to remove all the PPE you used and properly dispose of them. Also, get rid of any materials that have been contaminated with blood and body fluids even if it is your own clothing.
The place you’re working with should also provide an appropriate place, storage area, or containers where you can clean, decontaminate, or dispose of all potentially infectious materials and wastes. If you’re working as a cleaning staff in clinics or hospitals, make sure to follow the proper way of disposing biomedical wastes.
Knowing how to protect yourself and prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens can make a lot of difference. However, all the equipment, training, and information in the world will do you no good if you’re not going to put them to use. Prevention is better—and simpler than cure.