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This section discusses background information on bloodborne pathogens explains why training is necessary and takes a closer look at the importance of the Exposure Control Plan.

Why is training in Bloodborne Pathogens Required?

A health care facility is made up of many more people than direct-care staff. Employees in a facility may include nurses, unit coordinators, quality-assurance personnel, administrative professionals, sanitation workers, and more. Although many employees may not be directly involved with patients, the potential for exposure to pathogens is always present.

OSHA also mandates that all employees who work in an environment where exposure to bloodborne pathogens is likely must complete training to reduce and prevent bloodborne pathogen exposure.

What is an exposure control plan?

An ECP is a plan that directs how employees respond to exposure to pathogens
and typically includes the following:

  • A briefing of personnel who may be exposed to pathogens directly.
  • A list of all employee responsibilities that may result in an exposure.
  • Rules set to ensure compliance with OSHA and the requirements of other governing bodies, such as the Joint Commission. (The Joint Commission is a United States-based organization that accredits more than 22,000 US health care organizations and programs).
  • Rules regarding research or production of antibodies of deadly bloodborne pathogens, such as Hepatitis B and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Proactive vaccination protocols for Hepatitis B.
  • Communication measures used to educate employees, such as this course.
  • Recordkeeping policies for any such exposure.
  • Policies for immediate actions after exposure.

What exactly are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are basically any germ or organism that resides in an infected person’s bloodstream. These pathogens may be transmitted by any substance that may contain blood, including sneeze droplets, urine, feces, seminal fluid, vomit, and all other bodily fluids.

Most bloodborne pathogens do not cause immediate symptoms, but they can still be transmitted to other individuals. Furthermore, some bloodborne pathogens can result in death.

A closer look at Bloodborne Pathogens:

Hepatitis B and C Viruses

The symptoms of Hepatitis B and C include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and liver damage.

There is a vaccine available for Hepatitis B. If you have not been vaccinated previously, an employer is required to provide one if you may be exposed to Hepatitis B. It is part of a three-set series, and each dose must be spaced out by approximately one month.

If you have started the series and failed to complete it, your employer may send you for a blood draw to verify the presence of Hepatitis B antibodies.


The symptoms of HIV infection can mirror many of the symptoms of the flu. However, general symptoms may include fatigue, appetite changes, unexplained fever, and swollen glands. Moreover, HIV infection increases the risk of contracting other diseases and developing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Contact Does Not Always Equal Illness

The information about bloodborne pathogens can be disheartening, but exposure does not mean you become infected. Following proper protocols can help reduce your risk of infection.

How to React to Bloodborne Pathogens in the Workplace

Exposure to bloodborne pathogens in the workplace can literally happen anywhere, including bathrooms, patient rooms, hallways, and laboratories. These steps can teach you how to respond (Figure 1).

  1. Protect Yourself.
  2. Act Immediately.
  3. Clean the area.
  4. Tell your supervisor.

Figure 1