In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard on occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030).
In accordance with OSHA’s regulations under this standard, fire and EMS (emergency medical services) employers are required to provide initial hire and annual refresher bloodborne pathogens training for firefighters to all employees.
The primary focus of a lot of this training content since 1991 was the risk of HIV and hepatitis B (HBV) transmission for health care workers, and how they could better protect themselves by using personal protective equipment (PPE)
Bloodborne Pathogen Training for Firefighters & EMS
Firefighters and EMS personnel will in most cases be required to take the Bloodborne Pathogens Training for the general workplace.
Some people will need to take the Bloodborne Pathogens Healthcare Worker training that covers additional procedures around working with needles, body fluid cleanup, etc. The job role and exposure determination should decide which course is appropriate.
Initial Bloodborne Pathogens training must occur on or before the firefighter or EMS starts employment. It should provide an overview of the procedures to follow after exposure to bloodborne pathogens, provide information on Hepatitis B vaccinations, the correct ways to use personal protective equipment, an overview of bloodborne diseases and how they can be transmitted and an overview of the employer’s exposure control plan.
Supplementary training should occur whenever exposure risk to human blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) changes, or when new work tasks, safety procedures or equipment are established.
Finally, annual re-training should take place upon the expiration of the previous training. This is often when employers begin to look for a Bloodborne Pathogens training course that best suits their organizational needs.
Bloodborne Pathogens Training for Firefighters and EMS
What the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Training Standard Covers
The aim of the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard regarding training is essentially to keep employees safe. In order to meet this requirement Your chosen bloodborne pathogens training course should cover these essential topics:
Introduction to Bloodborne Pathogens
A successful course is one that starts by defining the basics. The best training courses cover everything related to the subject while assuming the trainee has no prior knowledge of the subject matter.
This should include an overview of bloodborne diseases, how bloodborne pathogens get transmitted, and an in-depth explanation of the exposure control plan requirements for your state and employer.
From these topics, you’ll get an understanding of the importance of the training and the underlying dangers of exposure blood and OPIM.
Here, you’ll learn about the definition of bloodborne exposure and how you can mitigate or prevent it. In this part of the training, firefighters should gain a basic understanding of what bloodborne exposure is and its implications to their work environment.
The main subjects covered here include risk of exposure, and how to reduce or prevent this risk, ways and methods to reduce and limit exposure risk, personal protective equipment and the correct way to use it, including PPE choice, use, handling, and disposal.
After this section, your team should be in a position to identify potential tasks and situations that present risk exposure and know-how to plan to reduce these risks and limit the transmission of bloodborne infections.
Post Exposure Requirements
It is essential for firefighters and EMS teams to know what to do next in case an exposure happens.
Therefore, training must cover the necessary actions to take, who to contact, HVB vaccination and any other relevant information.
In addition to this, you need to keep your employees up to date on the exposure control plan for your organization including where they can access it.
When a bloodborne pathogen exposure inevitably occurs, the reporting chain and the resulting paperwork are unavoidable.
Therefore, the training must include details related to the evaluation and procedures that follow exposure.
Reporting procedures are essential because they help in tracking exposure, diseases and the effectiveness of any preventative measures that are in place.
Bloodborne Pathogens Risk Among Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians
Firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel have increased the potential for occupational exposures to blood and other human body fluids., This increases their risk for occupational bloodborne infection.
It is hard to quantify how much this risk increases for firefighters – a research study attempted to analyze this by reviewing all identified articles that described surveys of exposures to blood or surveillance of bloodborne infections among firefighters and/or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the United States.
For the hepatitis B pathogen, only seroprevalence surveys were included that were conducted after the 1992 requirement by the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to offer free HBV vaccination to potentially exposed employees.
From this data, the expected number of annual occupational hepatitis C virus seroconversions was estimated to be between 5.8 and 118.9 per 100,000 employee-years for EMT paramedics, between 3.4 and 33.7 per 100,000 for firefighter EMTs, and up to 3.6 per 100,000 for firefighters (non-EMT).
Conclusions on Firefighters / EMS and Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Risk
Despite the expected occupational seroconversions and taking into account some limitations in the studies when drawing conclusions, it appears to suggest that firefighters and EMS personnel do not have an elevated seroprevalence of hepatitis C virus compared with the general population.
In other words – despite a greater risk of exposure, the number of firefighters and EMS workers that were exposed to bloodborne pathogens like HCV do not show a greater number of people developing the condition.
Firefighters and EMTs must understand the basics of bloodborne pathogens in accordance with the OSHA BBP standard and pass a course that offers bloodborne pathogens certification.
To ensure your employees are fully compliant with the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard check out our online bloodborne pathogens training for groups and get your workers compliant fast.