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Work Practice and Engineering Controls

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Now I think it’s important that we take a closer look at work practice, administrative and engineering controls so that you understand them pretty well. Work practice controls reduce the likelihood of exposure by altering the way in which a task is performed. Now administrative controls include following all the training, the legal requirements, the policies and the procedures related to infection control at your facility. While engineering controls isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace. These include sharps disposal containers, needle containment devices, and other safer devices for making sure you don’t get poked or cut. Engineering controls shall be examined and/or maintained - replaced on a regular schedule to ensure their effectiveness. And examples of work practice, administrative, and engineering controls include the following: Not eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics or handling contact lenses in work areas where there’s the possibility of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. When emptying trash containers, don’t use your hands to compress the trash into the bag. Lift and carry the trash bag away from your body. All equipment and environmental and working surfaces shall be cleaned and decontaminated after contact with blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials. If you’re dealing with Contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps, they shall not be bent, recapped or removed. Needles and sharps need to be immediately, or as soon as possible after use, placed in an appropriate sharps container. Warning labels shall be affixed to the regulated waste and other containers used to store, transport or ship other potentially infectious materials. These labels shall be fluorescent orange-red or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color. Use personal protective equipment. It must be provided by your employer at no cost to you. Examples include: Gloves. Use them when the potential exists of touching blood, body fluids, or contaminated items. CPR Shields and Eye Protection. Use these when the likelihood of splashes or secretions of blood or body fluid exists. Gowns. Use them when the potential exists of contact with blood or body fluid on clothing or exposed skin. Masks and respirators. Use to protect from potential airborne infectious diseases. Know where personal protective equipment is at your workplace. Know what personal protective equipment is available and how to use it. Make sure first-aid kits and emergency supplies include disposable gloves and CPR face shields or rescue masks. Remember that if you’re laundering items, such as reusable gowns, rather than disposing them, follow your facility’s specific procedures for handling laundry. General laundry procedures include: Wearing PPE whenever handling laundry. Keep contaminated laundry separate from other laundry. Bagging potentially contaminated laundry where it is used. Using leak-proof bags for wet laundry. Transporting it in properly labeled bags especially when shipping contaminated laundry to an off-site facility.

In this lesson, we're going to take a closer look at work practice controls, administrative controls, and engineering controls, so that you can have a deeper understanding of not only what they are, but why they're important.

Work Practice Controls

A work practice control is any measure that reduces the likelihood of being exposed to blood or other pathogens by changing the way a task is carried out.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are changes in work procedures such as written safety policies, rules, supervision, schedules, and training with the goal of reducing the duration, frequency, and severity of exposure to hazardous chemicals or situations.

Administrative controls include the completion of all relevant training, any and all legal requirements that must be met and adhered to, and all the policies and procedures related to infection control at your workplace.

Engineering Controls

An engineering control measure is one that eliminates, isolates, or removes a hazard from the workplace; things used in the workplace to help reduce the risk of an exposure.

Engineering controls include:

  • Sharps disposal containers
  • Needle containment devices
  • Other safety devices that prevent handlers from getting cut or poked

Pro Tip #1: Engineering controls should be examined and/or maintained on a regular set schedule to ensure their maximum effectiveness. Make sure these controls are in place at your workplace to minimize your risk of exposure.

Examples of Workplace, Administrative, and Engineering Controls

This list is in no way meant to be a complete accounting of all controls, but rather to give you a good idea of what workplace, administrative, and engineering controls look like in the workplace.

  1. Food, drink, etc. You shouldn't eat, drink, smoke, apply cosmetics, or handle contact lenses in any and all work areas where there exists the possibility of exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials.
  2. Trash disposal. When disposing of any trash that contains contaminated materials, do not compress the trash with your hand. Also, when carrying contaminated materials for disposal, be sure to carry the trash away from your body in case of spillage.
  3. Environment and work surfaces. All equipment and surfaces in your work environment should be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated after all contact with blood, other body fluids, and other potentially infectious materials.
  4. Contaminated sharp objects. When dealing with contaminated needles and other sharp objects (routinely shortened to just sharps) there are certain guidelines to follow, such as not using bent needles, recapping needles, or trying to remove questionable needles. All needles and sharps must also be placed into appropriate sharps containers immediately after use.
  5. Warning labels. Warning labels should be affixed to all regulated waste and other containers that are used to store, transport, or ship other potentially infected materials. Labels must be fluorescent orange or red, or at least predominantly orange or red, to indicate a possible threat, along with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color.
  6. Personal protective equipment. All employees must be provided with personal protective equipment by their employer and at no cost to the employee. Examples of PPE include:
    a. Gloves – Wear gloves whenever the potential exists of touching blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially contaminated items.
    b. CPR shields and protective eyewear – Use these items when there's a likelihood of blood and OPIM being secreted or splashed.
    c. Gowns – Wear a gown when the potential exists of getting blood and other bodily fluids on any clothing or exposed skin.
    d. Masks and respirators – Use whenever there's a potential risk of coming into contact with airborne infectious diseases.

Pro Tip #2: Having personal protective equipment at your workplace is great, but do you know what's even better? Knowing exactly where all PPE is located and being able to properly use them. Be sure PPE is available at your workplace and that you've been appropriately trained to use them.

If you're in a profession where you have access to a first aid kit at work, be sure it's properly stocked with all necessary items, such as gloves and CPR face shields or rescue masks.

Cleaning Rather than Disposing?

If you are tasked with laundering contaminated items – like reusable gowns – rather than disposing of them, make sure you follow your facility's specific procedures for cleaning and handling these items.

General laundry procedures will include:

  • Wearing personal protective equipment whenever handling contaminated laundry
  • Keeping contaminated laundry separate from non-contaminated laundry
  • Bagging potentially contaminated laundry in the same area in which it was used, rather than transporting it elsewhere to bag
  • Using leak-proof bags for wet contaminated laundry
  • Transporting contaminated laundry in properly labeled bags, especially when shipping it to an offsite facility

A Work Practice Cheat Sheet

As you now know, work practice controls reduce the likelihood of exposure by changing the way a task is carried out, which helps reduce the risk of an exposure incident.

This cheat sheet is not meant to be complete, however these are some of the more common controls you'll likely face.

  1. Place all sharps items in puncture-resistant, leak-proof containers that are both labeled and available at the point of use.
  2. Avoid splashing, spraying, and splattering droplets of blood or OPIM when performing all procedures.
  3. Remove and dispose of soiled protective clothing as soon as possible.
  4. Clean and disinfect all equipment and work surfaces that may have been soiled by blood or OPIM.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after being exposed to any potentially contaminated materials and be sure the sink is not located in a food preparation area.
  6. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when handwashing facilities are not available.
  7. Do not eat, drink, smoke, apply cosmetics or lip balm, handle contact lenses, or touch your mouth, nose, or eyes when you are in an area where you may be exposed to infectious materials.