Introduction: A Pathogen is any microscopic organism, specifically a bacteria, germ, virus, or parasite that is able to cause disease in a human being. The term Blood Borne infers being contained or carried in blood or blood-contaminated material.
OSHA Standards require that all employees be trained in the recognition and measures to avoid contamination by Blood Borne Pathogens.
Unless a person works in a medical profession, the only time one would encounter true Blood Borne Pathogens in the work-place would be while rendering first aid to a co-worker who has sustained a bleeding injury. The HIV and the Hepatitis B and C viruses are the most dangerous pathogens that may be contracted by blood or bodily fluid contact.
When First Responder care is given to a person with bleeding injuries, special attention must be given to the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In this case, PPE should include eye and face protection, latex gloves, and sheet plastic to be used as a barrier against possible contact with bodily fluids. Always assume that blood is contaminated. During the initial first aid procedures when blood or bodily fluids are involved, take special precautions to avoid touching bare, unprotected skin surfaces to blood or other contaminated objects. Post-event personal hygiene and site clean-up with antibacterial soap and antiseptic spray as well as proper disposal of contaminated material is extremely important. – Take time to evaluate and stock your first aid kits with: Biohazard Bags, Eye Protection, Disinfectant, Gloves, Masks, etc.
Employers should make confidential follow-up medical testing and inoculation available at no cost to any employee(s) involved. If such treatment or aftercare is declined by the affected employee(s), a written, signed statement that documents such must be obtained.
Many additional “Pathogens” exist in and around the workplace. These microbial monsters thrive around sanitary facilities, especially Porta-Johns, during warm summer weather and it is important that all sanitary facilities be kept clean. On occasion, contaminated water sources turn up on a jobsite. These sources can be a dirty water cooler, an old nasty hose, or may originate from a newly laid water line. Always ensure that your drinking water supply is clean, fresh, and safe. Avoid sharing drinking cups or using community drinking containers (OSHA even requires that jobsites be equipped with clean water and single use cups).
Special precautions must also be taken with food. If you are packing a lunch, make certain you keep it in a cool place. Mayonnaise, for example, can turn toxic in only a few hours if not kept cool. This is true of many other foods (especially those which contain egg, milk, and meat products). Food poisoning in the form of Botulism or Ptomaine is not a pleasant experience and is most prevalent during hot summer months. Food poisoning is caused by ingesting food that contains toxic substances produced by bacteria. These toxins are some of the most potent poisons known and can severely damage nerves and muscles (because these toxins cause nerve damage, they’re called neurotoxins). Other food borne toxins include Staphylococcal, Hemorrhagic colitis (caused by E. coli), and Clostridium perfringens. Even minute amounts of these toxins entering the body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the eye or a break in the skin can cause serious illness. If it is apparent a person is acutely affected, they should be taken to the hospital immediately. Attention must be given to workplace housekeeping, hygiene, and sanitation issues.
There are many real Pathogen-related health hazards associated with insect bites. The transfer of viruses and bacteria by bloodsucking insects can cause disease. Some of the bloodsuckers are: Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and bed-bugs. Some of the more serious diseases they can transfer are Lyme’s Disease, Malaria, Bubonic Plague, Yellow Fever, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to name just a few. Standing puddles of stagnant water are breeding grounds for these insects. Again, good housekeeping measures are required to keep insects, rodents, or other vermin who are attracted to rubbish, away from the work-place.
Conclusion: It is impossible to avoid contact with all Pathogenic organisms because they exist literally by the millions. What is possible is to be aware of their presence and knowledgeable of the environments they prefer and to understand the processes required to avoid contact, contamination, and infection. Everyone who follows these safety guidelines is doing their part in helping to keep the workplace as Pathogen-free as possible.