Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, is specialized gear that is designed to protect against exposure to certain types of hazardous situations that can cause injury or illness. Certain types of PPE are designed specifically as a means of reducing exposure to harmful bloodborne pathogens. There are a number of ways in which PPE reduces exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens are biological substances that are capable of causing illness in humans, even fatal disease. The most common types of bloodborne pathogens are classified in two primary categories:
The more common types of bloodborne pathogens that PPE is designed to protect against include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
An additional point needs to be made about what are classified as bloodborne pathogens. Pathogens that are bloodborne can also be found in other types of bodily fluids as well. Thus, personal protective equipment designed to protect against exposure to bloodborne pathogens must guard against exposure not only to blood but to other bodily fluids as well.
What are the Basic Elements of Personal Protective Equipment?
PPE must be designed specifically for the task at hand. For example, if PPE is needed to address a biohazard cleanup, the personal protective equipment utilized must be rated to protect against biohazards. Such a biohazard rating would cover a situation involving a possible exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
At minimum the PPE elements utilized in a situation involving bloodborne pathogens would include:
- HEPA mask or respirator
- Protective eyewear
- Uniform, smock, or appropriate garment covering
Each of these essential elements of PPE protect against exposure to bloodborne pathogens in different and crucial ways. A HEPA mask or respirator protects against blood or other bodily fluids that might become airborne, if even for a short amount of time. For example, if a person is involved in cleaning up a blood spill, the possibility does exist that blood might splatter and hit that individual in the face. In the absence of an appropriate HEPA mask or respirator, airborne blood can end up getting into a person’s mouth or nose. The possibility then exists that an individual could become infected by a bloodborne pathogen through that type of initial entrance into that person’s body.
Protective eyewear serves a similar purpose. If blood or some other bodily fluid splashes into a person’s unprotected eyes, the possibility exists that such a scenario can expose an individual to a bloodborne pathogen of some type.
Gloves are a crucial element of comprehensive personal protective equipment. The reality is that even a tiny cut or sore on a person’s hand can prove to be a ready portal for infection if gloves are not used.
Finally, a uniform, smock, or other protective garment covering protects a person from having his or her clothing contaminated by blood or other bodily fluids and associated pathogens.
Exceptions to Use of Personal Protective Equipment
Generally speaking, there are no exceptions to the use of personal protective gear. For example, there is never a justification for not using appropriate PPE when cleaning up a biohazardous situation like a blood spill.
With that said, there may be some sort of very limited situation in which the immediate use of PPE would pose a greater health hazard to an injured person or the public more generally. For example, if a person is seriously injured in a workplace setting and immediate emergency life saving intervention is necessary, this may need to be initiated for a short period of time before PPE is available and put in place.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, does recognize that is very, very limited situations, PPE may not be immediately accessible and a true health or safety situation might exist necessitating immediate intervention before personal protective gear can be put on. OSHS stresses that a situation of this nature is deemed an extremely rare occurrence.
Disposing of Personal Protective Equipment
If disposal personal protective equipment is utilized, it must be disposed of in the same manner as biohazardous waste. In other words, it needs to be placed in an appropriate biohazardous waste container with proper warning signs. The receptacle utilized to dispose of biohazardous waste and disposable PPE must be transported by a duly authorized biowaste transport company. The biowaste and disposable PPE must be taken to a duly certified biohazard waste disposal service.
Professional Biohazard Waste Cleanup Company
If a significant issue exists with the need to cleanup biohazardous material, the advisable course of action to take likely is to engage the services of an experienced biohazard cleaning company. This type of specialist has the background and experience, coupled with appropriate tools and resources (including PPE) designed to safely and thoroughly eliminate a biohazardous situation in a home, business, or other location.