Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Hepatitis B at Work
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the blood-borne Hepatitis B virus (HBV) that can be fatal if untreated. According to the World Health Organization, Hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV and poses a significant occupational hazard to health workers.
“Beginning in the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic raised concern for the transmission of viruses in the workplace and generated action by OSHA to control the hazard,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP, of OccuSafe, Inc. “Since that time, cases of AIDS in the United States have fallen. During the same period, according to the Hepatitis B Foundation, 100,000 new people are infected with Hepatitis B each year.”
How is Hepatitis B Spread in the Workplace?
HBV infection can be spread through contact with blood and other body fluids of someone who has an Hepatitis B infection. If infected, there may be no symptoms or one may feel sick for a period of days or weeks, or, in rare cases, become severely ill. Between five and ten percent of those infected will develop chronic infections and illness which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. The virus is very hardy and can survive outside the body in dried blood for up to one week. Those who work with blood and with people who have Hepatitis B are at greater risk of infection. The most common way for workers to be infected with Hepatitis B is through an accidental needle stick. Another common method of transmission at work is to touch a sheet or blanket containing infected blood, and then touch your mouth, eyes, nose or an open wound. To learn more about HBV visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s web site.)
Protecting Employees from Hepatitis B
OSHA requires, under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (Section 1910.1030), that a program be implemented to protect employees who may be exposed to Hepatitis B.
- Adequate Protective Equipment. Gloves should be worn whenever a worker is touching blood or infectious fluids, or is handling something that may contain blood. Health professionals and dentists should wear gloves whenever they are touching a person’s mouth, eyes, nose, genitals or open wound.
- Hepatitis B Vaccine. Employees must be provided with the Hepatitis B vaccine at no cost.
- Access to Prompt Medical Care. Employees need access to confidential medical care as well as the immunoglobulin injection if contact with bodily fluid occurs.
- Specialized Training on the Hazards of Bloodborne Diseases. Employees who have contact with bodily fluids, such as maintenance and first aid staff, should be instructed in procedures to control exposure and how to use appropriate personal protective equipment. All employees should receive training about HBV and how to protect themselves from it. All employees should be trained in Universal Precautions.
- “If you don’t know if a bodily fluid is infected, assume it is,” explains Ticker. “Vigilance for biological hazards is vital.”
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate andcontrol hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety andhealth. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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