Unplanned blood spills in the workplace create the risk of exposure to bloodborne illnesses like hepatitis and HIV. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard is designed to protect employees with this risk of occupational exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. While much of the language in the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard is geared toward healthcare and research environments, it applies equally to all employers. Failure to comply with this standard can result in fines and penalties and increase exposure to litigation. A food worker’s finger cut, a stock clerk’s box cutter accident, or a customer’s bloody mishap in the food aisle are all examples of blood spills that would be governed by the OSHA Bloodborne rules.
Employers are required to establish a written Exposure Control Plan. These plans should include engineering and work practice controls that are designed to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. The compliance methods required include treating all blood and other human body fluids as if they are known to be infectious for HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens. Employers are also required to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, face masks, eye shields and other items.
To comply, employers include so-called Bloodborne Pathogen spill kits as an engineering control to reduce or eliminate exposure. These kits typically include a complete set of personal protective equipment for employees, an absorbent to solidify blood spills, a disinfectant and disposal supplies including scrapers, absorbent towels and trash bags. A well-designed kit will include detailed instructions with step-by-step images and enough absorbent to gel large amounts of blood.