October 05, 2021

Complying with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard: Training and Policy Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workplaces across numerous industries ensure employee safety and prevent incidents that could cause harm to workers. The Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard is an OSHA requirement for healthcare organizations because it deals with preventing the spread of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that may be present in blood or body fluids and that could cause harm if an employee comes in contact with them. The standard requires organizations to put measures in place that prevent the transmission of these bloodborne pathogen. Transmission can occur when workers are stuck or cut with a contaminated sharp object, such as a needle or scalpel, or have an open wound that comes into contact with bio-contaminated material. OSHA’s BBP standard applies to any workplace setting where employees are regularly exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material as part of their jobs, including hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare settings.

Proper training is a key component of regulatory compliance. Organizations must provide bloodborne pathogens training to any employee who is determined to be at risk for exposure. This may include nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, housekeeping staff, and other clinical and operational employees. Training should be part of orientation and take place at least annually as a refresher. In addition, employees should receive supplemental training if and when they assume new or modified roles that increase their exposure risk.

Training should cover a range of topics, including:

  • The epidemiology and symptoms of bloodborne diseases
  • How BBPs may be transmitted
  • The steps workers can take to protect themselves from exposure
  • The safety measures in place to prevent exposure, such as personal protective equipment, proactive vaccination, and sharps disposal solutions
  • How to report an exposure incident
  • What steps to take in the event someone is exposed

Online training modules can be especially helpful in meeting the standard’s training requirements because staff can access the content at their convenience, and modules can be regularly updated to ensure they remain current with the latest guidance. Stericycle offers a comprehensive, online BBP training module that is easy to access and use. Presented by a disease control and prevention expert, each session guides staff through the standard and helps them understand their role in preserving safety and maintaining compliance. Sessions are available in English and Spanish—and staff can complete the training in less than an hour.

In addition to BBP training, organizations must create and maintain an Exposure Control Plan that details how they prevent staff exposure to bloodborne pathogens, as well as what happens if an incident occurs. This plan is one of the first things an OSHA inspector will ask for during an inspection, so it is essential to keep the plan accessible and up to date. Healthcare organizations must review their plans annually and document when reviews take place. As part of the review process, organizations are required to consider whether there are safer medical devices that could prevent worker exposure and whether requiring the use of those devices is warranted. This process should also be documented.

Other strategies to ensure BBP standard compliance involve creating a vaccination program for hepatitis B and other dangerous pathogens, ensuring proper labeling of hazardous materials, and using effective waste management solutions that ensure safe and secure sharps disposal to minimize staff injury.

Meeting the requirements of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard requires a focused effort. Here are the 5 most frequently asked questions:

1. What Is Bloodborne Pathogens Training?

Bloodborne pathogens training is education provided to healthcare workers about dangerous viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms that could cause serious illness if exposure occurs. An employer must provide this training to any employee who is determined to be at risk for bloodborne pathogen exposure. Depending on the organization, this may include nurses, physicians, housekeeping staff, and other clinical and operational employees. 

2. What Information Is Included in Training about Bloodborne Pathogens?

The information included in training about bloodborne pathogens covers a range of topics, such as the standard’s requirements, the risks of pathogen exposure, how to prevent exposure, how to recognize if someone has come in contact with bloodborne pathogens, and what to do in the event this occurs.

3. How Often Is Bloodborne Pathogens Training Required?

Bloodborne pathogens training is required during orientation and at least annually as a refresher. In addition, employees should receive supplemental training if and when they assume new or modified roles that increase their exposure risk.

4. What Is an Exposure Control Plan?

An exposure control plan is a written document that details how an organization prevents exposure to bloodborne pathogens and what’s involved in responding to an exposure incident should one occur. The document should describe training programs, proactive vaccination efforts, engineering controls that reduce risk, and so on.

5. How Often is an Exposure Control Plan Reviewed?

Healthcare organizations must review their exposure control plans annually and document when reviews take place. As part of the process, organizations must consider whether there are safer medical devices that could prevent worker exposure and whether requiring the use of those devices is warranted. This process should also be documented.

Learn more about how Stericycle can help you deliver comprehensive bloodborne pathogens training and develop detailed policies that safeguard staff.

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