When you think of construction jobs, you probably don’t think about blood and other bodily fluids (yep, we are just going to jump right into this topic). But as a dangerous industry, it is quite common to see injuries first hand. When an accident happens to someone you work with daily, the natural and personal response is to help that person anyway you can, however it is important to take precautions so the hero doesn’t become a victim.
What is a Bloodborne Pathogen?
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Needle sticks and other sharps-related injuries may expose workers to bloodborne pathogens. Source: www.osha.gov
How Would You Be Exposed to This Hazard?
The most common way to be exposed to an infectious disease is by “needle stick” meaning a used medical grade needle poked into you. While possible, there are more likely scenarios in construction:
- During demolition or clean up on remodel jobs
- Contact with used medical equipment
- Septic and Waste drain lines
- Contact with another person’s blood
- Sharing tools or equipment with open cuts on hands
- Cleaning up blood from another person’s injury
- Administering first-aid to another person
Best Practices to Avoid Bloodborne Pathogens
No matter how well you know the person, always wear latex gloves when performing first-aid. There is no time to compare notes about what the other person may or may not have, or they may not know of a disease they have. Don’t become a victim from being a hero.
Wear gloves and safety glasses when working on plumbing and remodel work. Pathogens can enter the body through the nose, eyes, mouth, or cuts/open skin.
Wash your hands before eating or drinking, and take your breaks in a clean environment.
If you are exposed to a bodily fluid or other infectious material, immediately wash the area with warm water and soap. Flush the eyes/mouth/nose with warm water. Notify a co-worker or supervisor asap and seek medical treatment.
OSHA does not require, but strongly recommends workers to have basic first-aid training. These classes do a hands on course to explain how to use first-aid kits, administer help, and stay safe during an emergency.
You may not work in healthcare, and may never work on a construction project in a healthcare facility. But the odds of coming in contact with a bodily fluid (blood, urine, vomit, new or old) at some point in your life is high. Take a 4 hour first-aid class, understand that blood that isn’t yours is dangerous, and always wear PPE when cleaning up an incident.
Questions for you:
- Do you have a first-aid kit with gloves?
- Have you or any co-workers completed first-aid training within the past 2 years?
Here are some related Toolbox Talks we’ve done: Is First Aid Required?, Hand Tool Safety