Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure for CSEs
Occupational Health and Safety-APS-400-OL009
Thomas Edison State College
July 11, 2014
Any job that puts a worker in contact with blood or other body fluids puts that worker at risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure. For the purpose of this paper, “Bloodborne Pathogens means pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).” (OSHA). Hospitals and health care settings carry a large risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens and as such have procedures in place to minimize or limit the risk. There is an inherent risk of disease and/or death from exposure through direct or indirect transmission. The biggest threat to the healthcare setting in terms of blood borne pathogens is human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HVC). There are five types of hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are among the most common. “An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/). HIV is a virus that can become acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) that affects cells in the body. Once a person has HIV they cannot be cured although the virus can be controlled through drugs. People need drugs for AIDS to prevent death. These diseases are an inherent threat to those who come in contact with blood borne pathogens and preventative measures should be taken to reduce the risk. The Customer Support Engineer is responsible for installing and maintaining automated scrub and linen machines in hospitals and clinics throughout the country. The machines are located all over the facilities, from locker rooms to outside of operating rooms. The purpose of the machines is two-fold: to cut down on employees taking home scrubs that belongs the facility and to reduce the risk of contamination from blood borne pathogens. Employees of the facility are to “purchase” scrubs from the machine with a token and dispose of the scrubs at the end of their shift or if they become soiled. The machines are also used for bed linens which can carry bacteria also. While the Customer Support Engineer is not responsible for loading or unloading the contents of the machines they do still need to open the machines for different kinds of maintenance work.
While conducting Preventive Maintenance, as well as during a training period of newly installed equipment, there is a potential of coming into contact with many bloodborne pathogens due to soiled scrubs that are deposited into the machines. While conducting maintenance, the machines were in-service and used by many different departments located within a hospital. Most notably were the ER and OR, whose deposited scrubs seemed to have a higher concentration of contamination due to the nature of the department personnel’s work. A suggestion from the manufacturer of the equipment was to post signs demonstrating the process of depositing such items. The posters displayed to the staff that those scrubs which were excessively soiled, should be placed into plastic bags and then deposited.
The plastic bags to put the scrubs in are provided for the staff so that they will get into the practice of bagging soiled scrubs. This is a practice that is not always followed. Customer Support Engineers have complained of employees depositing soiled garments. One Customer Support Engineer reported that when they questioned an employee, who was a nurse, the reply he got was, “It is just blood”. When soiled garments are deposited in the machine the risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure arises for Customer Support Engineers who are in the machines doing