Who is at Risk of Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens?

03/08/17 By Jill Tilton

There are a number of professions that have associated risks of having exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The pathogens that get the most attention in these fields include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and some others.

After doing a number of studies the CDC has concluded that 5.6 million workers in the health care industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

5.6 million is a lot of people. In the United States there are 5,564 registered hospitals according to the American Hospitals Association.

biohazard symbolOSHA defines blood to mean human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood. Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) means: (1) The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; (2) Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and (3) HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV. The following references aid in recognizing workplace hazards associated with bloodborne pathogens. (source: osha.gov)

There are a number of ways that an employee can be exposed to a BBP (Bloodborne Pathogen) from those that work in healthcare, non-healthcare settings, permanent and temporary work sites. ISSA put together a list of those typically covered by the BBP Standard:

  • Housekeepers in health care facilities.
  • Personnel in hospital laundries or commercial laundries that service health care or public safety institutions.
  • Employees in first aid or medical clinics in industrial, educational, and correctional facilities (i.e., those who clean and dress wounds).
  • Employees assigned to provide first aid.
  • Physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, and other health care employees in clinics and physicians’ offices.
  • Employees of clinical and diagnostic laboratories.
  • Tissue bank personnel.
  • Employees in blood banks and plasma centers who collect, transport, and test blood.
  • Dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental laboratory technicians.
  • Staff of institutions for the developmentally disabled.
  • Hospice employees.
  • Home health care workers.
  • Staff of nursing homes and long term care facilities.
  • Employees of funeral homes and mortuaries.
  • HIV and HBV research laboratory workers.
  • Employees handling infectious waste.
  • Medical equipment service and repair personnel.
  • Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and other emergency medical service providers.
  • Firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and correctional officers.

For maintenance personnel/janitors in non-healthcare facilities OSHA does not generally consider them to have occupational exposure to blood and OPIM. It is the employer’s responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve such occupational exposure. However, OSHA has issued opinions on certain maintenance practices as to whether they involve occupational exposure to blood or OPIM.

For example if waste containers are being emptied, they must be lined with a bag in such a way that the emptier will not come in contact with its contaminants. If OSHA determines, on a case by case basis, that sufficient evidence exists of reasonably anticipated exposure, the employer will be held responsible for providing the protections of the BBP standard to those employees with occupational exposure.


Sources: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/recognition.html