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Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure for Plumbers

- July 16, 2018 by Tom Keel (View all posts by Tom)

WHAT ARE  BLOODBORNE PATHOGENS?

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms in blood, bodily fluids and feces that can cause serious diseases in humans. The most common bloodborne pathogens to which plumbers are exposed to are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

HEPATITIS B VIRUS (HBV):

  • Attacks the liver
  • May cause fever, jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, or death
  • Can become chronic or long term
  • Can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer
  • Transmits through sexual contact or exposure to infected blood
  • May be trrransmitted by carriers of the disease
  • Can survive outside the body for up to seven days
  • Has no cure
  • Does have a safe and effective vaccine

HEPATITIS C VIRUS (HCV):

  • Has symptoms similar to hepatitis B
  • Frequently leads to chronic infection and liver disease
  • May be life-threatening
  • Has no cure or vaccine
  • Can be transmitted by carriers
  • Can survive outside the body for 16 hours to four days

HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (HIV)

  • Attacks the immune system
  • Causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a disease with no known cure.
  • Very fragile and will not survive long outside of the human body
  • Causes weakness, fever, sore throat, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, weight loss, swollen lymph glands, and a white coating on the tongue

PATHOGEN SOURCES & THEIR ROUTES OF ENTRY INTO THE BODY:

The most common sources of pathogens are from infected blood, urine, feces, vomit, vaginal secretions and semen. The most common routes of entry into the body are from toilet water, waste and residue due to a worker being splashed while handling the water, waste, or residue, contact with breaks in the skin, skin abrasions, and the pathogens coming into contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

The first line of defense is the wearing of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). When working with or around pathogens such as with stopped-up toilets, toilet lines, toilet leaks (particularly at the base), be sure to wear at least the following PPE:

  • Proper fitting gloves
  • Safety glasses/goggles AND a face shield
  • Particle masks that fit over the mouth
  • Elastic booties to cover your footwear

Because the toilet contents can splash or come into contact with your clothing (due to leaked contents already on the bathroom floor), it is important to verify that your clothing has not been contaminated.

WHAT IS A  BLOODBORNE PATHOGEN EXPOSURE INCIDENT?

A  bloodborne pathogen exposure incident involves either an injury or contact between blood, urine, feces, or vomit and a vulnerable part of your body such as a break in your skin, abrasion, mouth, eyes, or mucous membrane areas.

WHAT TO DO IF AN EXPOSURE INCIDENT OCCURS:

If an exposure incident occurs, take the following action:

  • Wash the area thoroughly with a non-abrasive antimicrobial soap
  • Flush the nose, mouth, and/or skin area where the contact was made with running water or numerous splashes of other water sources (bottled water) if direct access to a faucet is not available.
  • Saline can also be used if it is available in a first aid kit.
  • Report the incident immediately to your supervisor
  • Seek medical attention

CLEANING UP AFTER THE JOB IS DONE

After working in an area where bloodborne pathogens may have been present, cleaning up the work site is an important part of the whole process as you will want to make sure that splashes that were not noticed while performing the job do not inadvertently come into contact with your clothing and subsequently cause you to touch them.

When cleaning up:

  • Continue to use the proper PPE
  • Pour or spray a disinfectant on and around the immediate work area. A 1% diluted bleach solution is probably adequate.
  • Wipe up the disinfectant and any residue of other materials and dispose of them using appropriate containers, bags, packaging, etc.

RECORD KEEPING

For each exposure incident that occurs, the following information should be maintained in a readily accessible location:

  • The employee’s name and social security number
  • The employee’s hepatitis B vaccination status
  • Results of all exams, medical testing, and post-exposure evaluation reports
  • Follow up procedures
  • Any information that you have that has been provided to health care professionals
  • The treating physician’s written opinion.
 

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