Many janitors don’t think about cleaning blood because they don’t work in healthcare facilities. But blood can still be found in other facilities, such as offices and schools.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030 Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens requires that all employers whose employees may be occupationally exposed to blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM) create an Exposure Control Plan, among other precautions.
Each janitor potentially exposed to blood needs to be trained in your company’s procedures, offered the Hepatitis B. vaccination and provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at no charge.
When cleaning blood, OSHA suggests the following steps:
1) Put on PPE appropriate for the task. Blood or OPIM on floors and walls may only require protective glasses and gloves. Overhead cleaning, such as after a fight on a school bus, will require additional PPE. If a janitor has any cuts on his skin, place a bandage over the area prior to putting on PPE.
2) Clean all blood thoroughly before applying the disinfectant.
3) Dispose of all infectious waste (wipers, rags, etc.) in accordance with federal, state or local regulations. This typically means disposing them in a can liner with biohazard symbols at the cleanup site. Mops, buckets and wringers used to clean up blood must be decontaminated. The mop can be bagged at the site and laundered separately or disposed of.
4) Apply an appropriate disinfectant labeled with kill claims for tuberculosis or HBV and HIV. Leave the surface wet as per the manufacturer’s directions.
5) Carefully remove PPE, and place in biohazard bag or container.
6) Wash hands and any exposed skin thoroughly. If no water is available at the site, janitors can use hand sanitizer instead, but should wash with soap and water as soon as possible.
If janitors are unsure whether the substance they are cleaning is blood, they should still take the above precautions. It’s best to assume all questionable substances and bodily fluids are contaminated with pathogens.
In addition, even though vomit is not usually considered a bloodborne hazardous substance unless it contains visible blood, it is a potential carrier of noroviruses. Therefore, taking precautions is still recommended.
Implementing work practice controls is an effective strategy to protect janitors further. Here are three of my favorites:
1) Designate one person, not all janitors, to clean blood or OPIM.
2) Never have janitors push trash or laundry down into a container. There could be bloody material below.
3. Broken glass should be picked up using a broom and dustpan; never by hand to avoid cuts and blood.
Common sense plays a big role in compliance and in protecting janitors’ health. Remind them to keep their eyes open, stop, think, and don’t take chances. When in doubt, follow OSHA’s precautions.