This article reviews why Bloodborne Pathogens training for janitorial employees is necessary and important.
Bloodborne pathogens are found in human blood and other body fluids such as synovial fluid. Facility employees such as janitors, housekeepers, custodians, and cleaners may be at risk of exposure to blood and other body fluids in the workplace.
If proper precautions are not taken, exposure to these pathogens can easily lead to infectious diseases.
You can contract these infectious diseases at your workplace while performing activities like eating when working on a contaminated desk, storing food in unclean refrigerators, unknowingly using a tool that has been contaminated with blood, or even while cleaning or using restrooms.
Bloodborne pathogen infection risk is higher among people who are exposed to blood and other body fluids due to their jobs.
Workers in many occupations, including Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), firefighters, housekeeping personnel in some industries, employees that handle contaminated waste or trash, and healthcare personnel, may be at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
The most common diseases caused by Bloodborne Pathogens are Hepatitis b, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
If you accidentally get exposed to blood or other body fluids at work, you must clean the area as soon as possible.
Are Janitorial and Housekeeping Staff Covered by the OSHA BBP Standard?
The answer is usually yes, but it depends. Any employee who is deemed to be at an exposure risk of bloodborne pathogens is covered by the standard, but this is in part decided by an employer’s exposure determination.
OSHA actually provided some additional information to this question in answer to a clarification request:
“Housekeeping workers in healthcare facilities may have occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, as defined by the standard. “Occupational exposure” is defined as “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious material which may result from the performance of an employee’s duties”. Individuals who perform housekeeping duties, particularly in patient care and laboratory areas, may be at increased risk for exposure when they perform tasks such as cleaning blood spills and handling infectious wastes.
While OSHA does not generally consider maintenance personnel and janitorial staff employed in non-health care facilities to have occupational exposure, it is the employer’s responsibility to determine which job classifications or specific tasks and procedures involve occupational exposure. For example, OSHA expects products such as discarded sanitary napkins, to be discarded into waste containers which are lined in such a way as to prevent contact with the contents. But at the same time, the employer must determine if employees can come into contact with blood during the normal handling of such products from initial pick-up through disposal in the outgoing trash. 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 29 CFR 1910.1030 to the employees with occupational exposure.” OSHA
So, the onus is on employers to decide if their staff are at risk – and that includes agencies and facilities management contract employers.
Precautions for Housekeeping & Cleaning
Precautions must be taken for cleaning personnel, such as erecting signs to inform others to avoid entering the area to reduce the risk of exposure. If you take timely action and have proper knowledge about bloodborne pathogens, it can help to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens and reduce the risk significantly.
There are many everyday situations in the work environment where events such as an accidental puncture by a sharp object contaminated with a bloodborne pathogen may occur.
Cleaners, Housekeepers, Janitors & Custodians at Risk
To quantify the risk to these types of employees lets look at an example. Say a doctor is taking blood samples of patients in a clinic using a needle and syringe. When the doctor finishes with the process, they carelessly toss the needle in the trash.
The next morning, housekeeping comes to clean and remove the trash. While removing the waste bag from the trashcan, the custodian is stabbed through the plastic bag with the syringe and has now been exposed to contaminated blood.
The number of people infected by accidental exposure to contaminated blood in the cleaning industry is staggering and continues to increase.
The OSHA BBP Standard
To address this situation, OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) issued the bloodborne pathogens standard.
This standard applies to any workplace in which workers face potential exposure to human blood or other body fluids that may carry disease.
OSHA believes that the best way to prevent hazards from affecting employees is to eliminate them, rather than to protect the employee through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is composed of:
- A written employers Exposure Control Plan,
- The requirement to provide bloodborne pathogens training to employees,
- The requirement to offer free Hepatitis B vaccinations to at-risk staff,
- Recordkeeping guidelines.
Not following the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard puts people at risk of infection with many types of diseases and sicknesses that are transmitted through bodily fluids.
In addition, OSHA could also impose heavy fines for non-compliance and there could be negative publicity for a company in violation of an inspection.
What Janitorial Contractors Should do to be Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Compliant
There is a wide selection of OSHA bloodborne pathogen training courses and educational programs available to help broaden worker and employer knowledge on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in the workplace.
If you are an employee your employer should provide access to bloodborne pathogens training for janitorial and cleaning employees at no cost.
If you are a janitorial contractor or custodian you take our free bloodborne pathogens training now and be certified within an hour or so.
Personal protective equipment is another area that is dealt with at length in the BBP Standard. OSHA has traditionally taken the line that personal protective equipment is the ‘last line of defense’ in protecting employees from any hazard.
They view bloodborne pathogens no differently. In addressing personal protective equipment the standard requires that janitorial employees be provided with access to all types of personal protective equipment required, including, but not limited to:
- Face Masks.
- Eye Protection
- Disposable Gloves.
- Face Shields.
- Pocket Masks or re-breathers.
What Facility Managers can do to make sure that their Janitorial Contractors are Bloodborne Pathogens compliant
- Ask to see their Bloodborne Pathogens Certification
- Require that janitors and cleaning staff show documented training before being placed in a building or facility.
- Check the cleaning closet for PPE including disposable gloves and safety glasses.
Talk to their cleaner at night to find out if they have been trained in Bloodborne Pathogens and ask some questions to test their familiarity.