Universal Precautions in the Workplace

Video 8 of 49
5 min 38 sec
English, Español
English, Español

This lesson deals with situations in which an injury or illness in the workplace leads to the presence of blood or other potentially infectious materials in the environment.

It should go without saying that the scene must be cleaned up. But who does the cleanup? And more importantly, how can it be done safely?

Often there are no specific employees who are designated to handle such cleanup jobs. But in other situations, there may be.

If an employee was so designated, he or she would fall under the Type A category of the bloodborne pathogens rule. Such employees need to undergo specific training in bloodborne pathogens before being allowed to clean up a potentially infectious scene – training like that which is provided at ProBloodborne.com.

However, for the general employee who volunteers (or not) to clean up the scene – or anyone with possible access, like first responders – this lesson is for you.

A fairly common question people have is, how do I know if the scene contains bloodborne pathogens or other types of infectious materials?

While that's an excellent question, the answer is likely to disappoint – Most of the time, you really don't know. The only way to know that if a scene contains pathogens is to get a sample into a laboratory and under a microscope. Assume the worst and be diligent, but most importantly …

Safety First

Pro Tip #1: What's the most important thing when it comes to a scene that you suspect to be infectious? Protect yourself. You must protect yourself against exposure to potentially infectious materials before engaging in any cleanup.

The best way to protect yourself is by wearing gloves. And while it may sound silly, it pays to inspect your gloves before putting them on.

Make sure there aren't any holes. Blow some air into a glove and hold the wrist end shut. Do you notice any air escaping through a leak? This is a great way to test for pinholes that you wouldn't be able to see.

Warning: Defective gloves DO NOT protect against infectious diseases as well as gloves that aren't defective. If that's the one thing standing between you and them, better to take that one thing (your gloves) seriously.

Solution Time

All you need is water and household bleach, but more specifically, 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. In other words, take your pale or bucket and fill it with 1 cup of bleach and 9 cups of cold tap water.

This is a simple solution but strong enough to kill most hepatitis, HIV, and other infectious pathogens.

Application Time

You can apply the bleach solution a couple of ways. Fill a spray bottle and spray the solution on contaminated surfaces and objects. Or dip a rag or towel into the solution and wipe those items down instead.

Pro Tip #2: Consider wearing goggles, a face mask, and an apron if there's a chance of getting hit with splatter or spray of possibly infectious materials while cleaning up the scene. Better safe than sorry.

An Example Situation

A worker has an accident that leaves blood on an electric saw. Follow the steps below to safely clean it.

  1. Spray the saw with the bleach solution.
  2. Let it sit for 30 seconds or so.
  3. Wipe the saw down.
  4. Throw the rag or towel in the trash. (At this point, you may not be able to see visible signs of contamination, but that doesn't mean you got it all after one go.)
  5. Spray the bleach solution on the saw again.
  6. Let the saw air dry.

Pro Tip #3: Letting the possibly contaminated saw air dry after the second go-around with the bleach solution is a great method of disinfecting it.

When You're Done

After you've cleaned all the tools and work surfaces that were affected, you'll want to properly dispose of your gloves, which involves taking them off without touching them.

Remove the first glove using only glove-on-glove contact, by grabbing the wrist part of one glove (the outer part) and peeling it off. Bunch up the glove you just took off and work it into your other hand and make a fist, with the glove inside.

Take one of your un-gloved fingers and using only skin-on-skin contact, push it under the wrist part of the glove and peel the second glove off.

Warning: Be careful when taking off your gloves that you don't accidentally snap the material and send possibly infectious substances into the air and around the scene. Remember that initially, you'll be removing these gloves in a pretty unfamiliar way; just something to be aware of.

Throw both gloves into the trash bin you've been using to dispose of your rags or towels, seal the bag up properly, and toss it into the nearest dumpster.

Pro Tip #4: For larger cleanup jobs, consider getting special biohazard bags. However, it may be a good idea for jobs of any size, no matter how small, as those bags are a great way to alert others of the potential hazards inside, like waste management personnel.