Chubb’s Claims department includes a team of dedicated registered nurse professionals with extensive experience helping businesses address health and safety issues. Our nursing team also supports employees as they recover from injury and illness—and return to work. In the spirit of promoting safe and healthy workplaces, our medical specialists developed this edition of Chubb HealthBeat to help your business and employees prevent and respond to exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
What are bloodborne pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms—viruses, bacteria, and parasites—present in blood that can cause disease. These pathogens can be passed from person to person through contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Exposure can occur via contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth, or through a break in the skin, including abraded or chapped skin.
More than 20 diseases are attributed to bloodborne pathogens. The most common bloodborne pathogens are:
All of these pathogens can cause serious illness, disability, and death.
Bloodborne pathogens in the workplace
Every year, millions of people are exposed to bloodborne pathogens while on the job. In the U.S., an estimated 400,000 needlesticks or sharps injuries—penetrating wounds from syringes, needles, scalpels, and lancets—occur in hospital settings.
While healthcare workers are at the greatest risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens, people in many occupations are at risk, including:
Taking steps to protect employees from bloodborne pathogens is the right thing to do—and it’s required by law for many businesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to identify and protect workers who are occupationally exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Many states also enforce their own safety requirements to prevent bloodborne pathogen exposure at the workplace.
Preventing exposure to bloodborne pathogens
Here are key steps employers can take to help protect their workforce from exposure to bloodborne pathogens:
Many types of employers, including certain healthcare organizations, are required by law to establish and annually update an Exposure Control Plan that codifies practices to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Employers must also maintain a Sharps Injury Log for the recording of injuries from contaminated sharps.
Responding to bloodborne pathogen exposure
Prevention is the best defense against exposure to bloodborne pathogens, but if an employee is exposed, immediate steps should be taken to minimize the chance of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises exposed employees to:
It’s a good idea to post procedures in highly visible areas where exposure may occur so employees can act quickly to prevent infection.
Exposure to bloodborne pathogens can also take a psychological toll. Employers can help allay fear and anxiety by maintaining open lines of communication, providing education about exposure, and supporting employees as they undergo treatment.
Bloodborne pathogen resources
Learn how the Chubb Workers Compensation Claims Services team supports the health of your employees.