Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blood & Biohazards: Risks, Rights, Responsibilities

Aftermath has launched 3 R’s of Blood and Biohazards, an initiative to raise awareness about biohazard concerns for first responders and law enforcement. The program provides support to create or enhance existing biohazard training programs while also offering resources for equipment and training materials.

First responders and law enforcement officers must be made aware of the risks they expose themselves to when coming into contact with severely injured individuals and objects on which bodily fluids may be present. One out of every 24 people has Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV, and many of those individuals are unaware of their infection. In fact, Hepatitis C, the most common bloodborne pathogen infection in the U.S., affects 3.2 million U.S. residents, 75% of whom are unaware that they are infected.

All employees who are exposed to human or animal biohazards need to know their rights to protection from bloodborne pathogens. OSHA, NIOSH, CDC and EPA all have established rules and guidelines to protect workers whose occupations require them to handle biohazard material, including information about personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccinations and the safe disposal of blood and biological materials.

Employers can be liable if employees or customers are exposed to a risk following a biohazard situation. To mitigate exposures to biohazards, employers should follow OSHA’s Blood-Borne Pathogen standard 29 CFR 1910.1030 as well as regulations developed by EPA, CDC, NIOSH and other agencies regarding the handling and disposal of biological materials. Employers are also responsible for providing exposed employees with Hepatitis B vaccinations, personal respirators, respiratory medical screening to ensure that the worker can properly breathe while wearing a respirator and PPE such as full-body suits, gloves and booties. Additionally, employees need to be trained in the bloodborne pathogen, PPE, HazCom and respiratory standards, and employers should formulate a written exposure control plan outlining steps to protect employees from pathogen exposure.

More information, as well as biohazard brochures and break room posters, can be found on Aftermath’s website