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The Hidden Hazard at the Repair Shop – Needle Sticks and Blood-borne Pathogens

- June 1, 2018 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

When working on customer vehicles in a mechanical repair shop or a body shop, technicians must be careful when reaching under or between seats or in other dark or blind areas. Occasionally, occupants of the vehicle may purposefully discard or accidentally drop hypodermic needles.  Needles can end up under or between seats or other places hidden from view. This leaves a potentially dangerous hazard ready to strike the next person to venture into the area.

Technicians should take precautions to avoid being stuck, and this starts with awareness training. If an incident like this has not happened in the past at your facility, it’s probably not something that technicians would even consider a hazard.  But, when someone is stuck by a needle, they could be exposed to bloodborne pathogens and should receive immediate medical care to ensure that no diseases were transferred.

Bloodborne pathogen exposure could also occur if your technicians are dealing with a vehicle after an accident and find blood or bodily fluids in the vehicle. OSHA has addressed this scenario in a letter of interpretation, which I encourage you to review.

Start prevention efforts by adding needle stick awareness and bloodborne pathogen training to your safety orientation and safety meetings. Your company should develop a policy on what to do if bodily fluids or needles are found.  Contacting the customer to clean or remove the item would be a good idea because that eliminates the hazard for your employee. Of course, that also means you  need to take the car out of the work bay to prevent your customer from walking into the hazards of the shop.

Some things to consider when developing your company prevention program include:

  • Always inspect under and in-between the vehicle seats visually before reaching in/under.
  • Wear leather work gloves or suitable mechanics gloves when reaching into dark places.
  • If a hazard is found, notify your manager immediately.
  • Treat all blood and bodily fluids as infectious.
  • If contact is made, wash hands immediately and notify your manager immediately.

For more information on bloodborne pathogens, check out these resources from the Center for Disease Control.