2020 has many businesses around the world examining their cleaning protocols, to keep a healthy and safe environment for their customers, clients, and employees. In going above and beyond, many may be unknowingly putting their employees, and themselves, at risk! Here’s a quick rundown on what you can and cannot have your employees clean up!
Many businesses may find themselves coming into contact with hazardous biowaste. Blood, feces, other fluids, they can all be potential hazards that many jobs see at some point or another. But can an employer ask an employee to tackle that?
Your General Duty
There is what is known as the General Duty clause in OSHA. It states that employers’ have a “General Duty” and responsibility to provide a safe, healthy workplace that is free from serious hazards.
This means the burden of responsibility is on you the employer to ensure your environment is clean and free of hazards. Does that mean the employer has to get down on their hands and knees and start scrubbing themselves? Of course not. But it means they have to provide the ability for the workplace or environment to be cleaned and made safe, in a safe manner.
The answer is: no! At least, not quite. Cleaning up hazardous material like blood isn’t simply grabbing a mop and some bleach and hoping for the best, blood can be host to a number of bloodborne pathogens that are hazardous to your health and safety.
When it comes to cleaning up hazardous material such as blood, it means that you need to have provided training and equipment to whoever it is that will be responsible for cleaning up such a mess. If you have all of your employees trained on this, then the answer quickly becomes yes, they can clean that up! Because they know how to do it safely. So we turn to OSHA standards and
According to the OSHA, bloodborne pathogens are “infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”
The potentially harmful nature of blood is why OSHA developed their Bloodborne Pathogen Standard. This is a set of guidelines to protect workers against the health hazards caused by bloodborne pathogens.
OSHA’S Bloodborne Pathogen Standard
The standard outlined by OSHA details what steps are necessary for employers to implement and address when they have employees who are exposed to potentially infectious materials. They are as follows:
Establish an exposure control plan.
Create a written plan that identifies and states clearly how to eliminate or at the very least minimize potential exposures. This will also list the jobs that have occupational exposure (think along the lines of anyone in X Position may be exposed to blood, some people in Position Z may be exposed to blood). This document reflects the planning and foresight to know who and why anyone may be exposed. This exposure control plan needs to be updated annually to be kept current.
Provide personal protective equipment (PPE).
We all have been hearing about PPE plenty in the news lately so you’re probably already familiar. PPE includes gloves, eye protection, gowns, and masks. OSHA standards state employers must provide any PPE required to do the job (including being asked to clean up blood.) Employers must also clean, repair, and replace this equipment as needed. Provision, maintenance, repair, and replacement are at no cost to the worker
Implement the use of universal precautions.
Universal precautions just means to treat every instance of blood and bodily fluid as if was known to be infectious, like firearm safety teaches you to treat every gun as if it was loaded. By always approaching things from the most cautious angle, you can be certain you’re doing everything possible to keep everyone safe.
Make Vaccinations Available
Vaccinations such as the hepatitis B vaccine should be offered within 10 days of initial exposure. This is crucial for all safety.
Did you find this page as a worker? Wondering exactly what you should do if an employer asks you to clean up blood?
As a worker you have the right to:
- Be trained in a language you understand
- Work on machines that are safe
- Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
- Be protected from toxic chemicals
- Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
- Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
- See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace
Know what you can, and cannot ask your employees to clean, and work to create a safe, healthy environment. If you need your employees to be able to clean up blood and other potential waste, you also have to get them the training and equipment to do so safely.
Otherwise, you need to hire someone specifically for it. In addition to being potentially infections, blood and other waste can be downright terrible to clean out of porous materials. You may find you need to bring in the professionals to take care of it. That’s where we come in.
The BIOClean Team is here to help. We Strictly following ever-changing CDC Guidelines, employ an environmental hygienist to update our protocol, all team members are certified professionals following infection control measure and the team is lead by an RN with specific microbiology and virology knowledge to get the job done right and safely, the first time.