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How to Reduce Your Risk with Standard Precautions

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3 minutes
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Standard precautions are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to working with all people. The key is to eliminate the exposure to all blood, bodily fluids, and other potentially infectious materials. Standard precautions includes the use of hand washing and appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, and masks, whenever exposure to body fluids is anticipated. Now remember, wearing gloves does not eliminate the necessity for hand washing. In fact, hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent infection. Hands should be washed before and after a contact is made with a client. Wash hands during procedures as hands become soiled. Use hot and cold running water. Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub immediately after removing your gloves. Follow your employer's exposure control plan. This is a written plan the employer must prepare to eliminate or minimize occupational exposures. Every workplace must have an easily accessible copy of its exposure control plan. The Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan must include these things: A determination of employee exposure by job classification. The implementation of various methods of exposure control, including: universal or standard precautions, engineering and work practice controls, personal protective equipment, information on the Hepatitis B vaccination, communication of hazards to employees and training requirements, recordkeeping, procedures for evaluating circumstances surrounding exposure incidents, post-exposure evaluation and follow-up and implementation methods for these elements. You see the fundamental method of protecting against bloodborne pathogens and infection is by controlling hazards. This can be accomplished by elimination which means getting rid of a hazard or hazardous task whenever possible. It can be also done by Substitution which means replacing a hazard or hazardous task with a safer equipment or method. And then engineering controls which is using devices like sharps containers to block or eliminate the risk of getting stuck. And then personal protective equipment (otherwise known as PPE). Use it! know where your personal protective equipment is and know how to use it properly. And then work practice and administrative controls: following policies and procedures that eliminate the risk. These different steps will make your workplace and your work activities much much safer.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to minimize your risk of exposure to all bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Your first line of defense when it comes to these threats is known as standard precautions.

Standard precautions include maintaining personal hygiene, using personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls, work practice controls, and proper equipment for cleaning contaminated areas and surfaces, along with the proper cleanup procedures.

Standard precautions represent the minimum infection prevention practices that everyone must follow, based on your employer's control plan. These precautions are key to eliminating exposure to all blood and bodily fluids.

Remember, it's better to assume that all bodily fluids carry the risk of disease and/or infection, rather than the opposite – to assume there is no risk. So, what are the standard precautions?

Standard Bloodborne and OPIM Precautions

Standard precautions can be broken down into two areas – proper use of handwashing and the appropriate use of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Handwashing

Pro Tip #1: While it may seem simple, handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent infection. To be as safe as possible, follow the three handwashing guidelines below.

  1. Wash your hands before and after contact is made with clients or patients.
  2. Wash your hands as often as needed – as they become visibly soiled or when exposed to possibly infectious materials.
  3. Wash your hands using soap and hot water immediately after removing your gloves.

Pro Tip #2: What if you don't have access to soap and water? In these cases, you can substitute soap and water with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you routinely find yourself in these situations, it may be a good idea to carry some hand sanitizer with you.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment includes things like gloves, gowns, and masks and should be used or worn whenever the exposure to body fluids is anticipated.

Warning: Wearing gloves is not a reason to forego handwashing and in no way will eliminate the necessity for handwashing, which is, once again, the single most effective way to prevent infection.

Your Employee Exposure Control Plan

An exposure control plan is simply a written plan that's provided by your employer, the aim of which is to eliminate or minimize your occupational exposure to blood and OPIM.

While the details may vary from one employer to the next, every relevant workplace must provide easily accessible copies of this plan to its employees. Each exposure control plan must include two things:

  1. A determination of exposure by job classification and …
  2. The implementation of various methods of exposure control, including:
    a. Universal or standard precautions
    b. Engineering and work practice controls
    c. Personal protective equipment
    d. Information on the Hepatitis B vaccine
    e. Communication of hazards to employees and the required training
    f. Recordkeeping
    g. Procedures for evaluating circumstances surrounding exposure incidents
    h. Post exposure evaluation and follow-up
    i. The implementation of methods for all of the above

Pro Tip #3: Universal Precautions are a set of precautions designed to prevent transmission of HIV, the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), and other bloodborne pathogens when providing care; these precautions consider blood and OPIM of all patients potentially infectious. These are OSHA-required practices that require you to treat ALL blood and OPIM as if known to be infectious.

Protecting Yourself from Bloodborne Pathogens and OPIM

The fundamental method of protecting yourself against pathogens and infection is by controlling the hazards. This can be accomplished a number of ways, including:

  1. Elimination. Get rid of all hazards or hazardous tasks if possible.
  2. Substitution. Replace hazards or hazardous tasks with safer equipment and/or safer methods.
  3. Engineering controls. Use devices such as self-sheathing needles and sharps containers to block or remove your risks of getting stuck, poked, or cut.
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Know where your PPE is located and how to properly use it. Also, keep in mind that PPE only protects you if you use it.
  5. Work practice and administrative controls. It's important to follow the policies and procedures for your workplace to eliminate all risks associated with bloodborne pathogens and OPIM.

What exactly is a work practice control? A work practice control is any measure that reduces the likelihood of exposure by changing the way a task is carried out.

When followed, all of these protection methods will help make your workplace and your work activities much safer.