Bloodborne pathogens training is both vital for keeping workers safe and, where relevant, a legal requirement. For those reasons combined, it is important every workplace provide such training to those who will need it.
The question then becomes who needs bloodborne pathogens training in your organization (if anyone). That’s why today we will discuss both those job roles you would expect to need training as well as where it is perhaps less obvious.
Significant Exposure Potential Means Training is a Must
At its most simple, jobs where exposure to blood is a real risk more or less require bloodborne pathogens training. Where there is blood, there is a risk of pathogen exposure.
The majority of these jobs will require such training by law but an employer should consider the training mandatory regardless. As a rule, failing to prepare an employee for predictable dangers opens an organization up to legal risk.
It’s also worth noting that a risk being predictable does not mean it must be likely. “Significant risk” when it comes to medical dangers only means that it is reasonable to expect an employee encounter the threat over the course of their duties.
There are many reasons to get bloodborne pathogens training but, at its core, the training is about safety. What is bloodborne pathogens certification but an assurance to both an employer and the employee they are prepared?
Bloodborne Pathogens Training for Frontline Healthcare Workers
The group perhaps at most immediate risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens are frontline healthcare workers. This group of workers includes:
- Physician assistants
- and more
This group includes all workers for who blood may be a common sight and who, given the nature of their work, are likely to come into contact with it.
OSHA has been clear in that all such employees still require bloodborne pathogen training regardless. It does not matter whether their general education or a different program also covered the same material.
This potential for redundancy is more than made up for in the reduction of risk. What is bloodborne pathogens training but an assurance an employee can handle for a threat?
One must be sure an employee has all the necessary training they need to protect themselves from pathogens. While other courses may cover similar material, that safeguarding isn’t the goal of those courses.
To prepare healthcare employees for bloodborne pathogens up to HIPAA and OSHA standards, we recommend our healthcare worker bundle. The bundle is affordable and gives employees all they need to prepare for bloodborne pathogens and more.
Care Workers at Less Obvious Risk
The next group that needs addressing are those in jobs where blood is a significant risk but not one that may always come to immediate mind.
Included in this risk group would be:
- Medical technicians
- School nurses
- and more
Depending on the specifics of their work, many in the above groups may be at as much risk as employees in the frontline group.
A school nurse at a large high school may see a significant number of patients each day. Caregivers to the elderly may often need to give shots or treat scrapes and cuts. Exposure to blood can remain a significant risk to this group.
The reason for its differentiation is only to acknowledge not all workers who give medical care are always thought of as at risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure. However, most of these employees still require the training regardless.
It is the ethical and legal duty of an employer to prepare all staff for the threats they’re expected to face. Even if the threat is less severe than that expected of a frontline worker, that does not mean it is so minor as to be negligible.
If an employee is in any field even somewhat related to medicine or caregiving, the odds are good bloodborne pathogen training would be beneficial, if not mandated.
One often ignored group at risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure is “downstream workers.” These are employees who are at risk of exposure to medical waste and biohazards, but whose work is not always inherently medical in nature.
Some examples of downstream workers include:
- EVS personnel
- Waste haulers
- Laundry workers
- Janitorial staff
As high as 25% of sharps injuries occur to employees in this group. Dirtied sharps regularly carry bloodborne pathogens, meaning any downstream employee should be prepped on how to protect themselves against such threats.
It’s also worth noting sharps are not the only way these employees might be exposed. Bloodied clothes need cleaning (or disposing of) and medical waste needs to be transported.
Error or poor oversight of these tasks can and has resulted in employees being exposed to bloodborne pathogens as well as other health hazards.
Those Who Work With Animals
There are quite a few diseases that can spread from animals to humans. For this reason, it is important that those who work with animals know how to deal with bloodborne pathogen risk.
This is another group of people whose exposure risk is easy to overlook. While some job paths, such as a veterinarian, are often understood to carry such risks, others, like a butcher, often are not.
Any job involving animals, but especially those involving the use of sharp implements, is going to involve a risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Once again, this means bloodborne pathogen training would be beneficial and, in many cases, will be required.
One place of note where bloodborne pathogen risk is often underestimated is hunting. The training required of them by the state may not always fully prepare them for the risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure.
As many people hunt only for sport or as a hobby, most hunters are not mandated to pass a bloodborne pathogen course. At the same time, it would be a good idea for such individuals to take the course anyway for their own safety.
While many illnesses animals can contract cannot transfer to humans, others can. It is unwise and unnecessary for an individual to hope an animal is either healthy or sick with pathogens that cannot infect humans. The risk of illness is significant enough to warrant caution.
In short, animal blood can still carry bloodborne pathogens dangerous to human beings. If a person has a reasonable chance of being exposed to animal blood, they would benefit from a safety course.
Miscellaneous At-risk Workers
The final group we will discuss today is also the broadest. This “Miscellaneous” group covers employees likely to be at-risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure not covered in the previous sections.
Emergency responders, even those whose work is not inherently medical in nature, are in this group. While we have mentioned paramedics already, there are other responders also at risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure.
For example, both firefighters and police officers can and do administer emergency aid on a regular basis. They are trained for this purpose, it is expected of them to provide the care as needed, and as such bloodborne pathogen training is a legal requirement.
One of the more unusual places bloodborne pathogen training is mandated is for tattoo and similar body artists. Exposure to minor, but significant enough, amounts of blood can be a common, expected occurrence in many of these career paths.
Even those in non-medical cleaner positions, such as garbage haulers and janitorial staff, can be at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. After all, minor injuries may require cleaning, even if no medical emergency has occurred.
Note this is separate from those in these positions “downstream” mentioned earlier. Downstream workers exist on a work pipeline connected to the medical industry; however, this is not the only place cleaning workers may be exposed to blood.
Blood is Blood
One might criticize the above categories as being somewhat arbitrary. On some level, that criticism is valid. As this section is titled, blood is blood.
At the same time, the distinction was made only to highlight how many different job paths have a significant enough level of exposure risk to warrant bloodborne pathogen training. One category isn’t “better” than another.
Whether a job was mentioned above or not is largely irrelevant. The real question is whether there is a reasonable, if very small, chance that someone in a job will be exposed to blood. If the answer is yes, the training is probably warranted.
Bloodborne pathogens training is inexpensive and may save an employee from contracting a serious bloodborne illness. Hepatitis B and C, AIDS, syphilis, Malaria, and brucellosis are only some of the illnesses one can contract from exposure to infected blood.