Contaminated Work Environments
Housekeeping staff and others can be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM) through contaminated work environments.
OSHA requires clean and sanitary work environments to prevent contact with blood or OPIM. The employer must determine and implement
an appropriate written schedule for cleaning and decontamination methods.
This written schedule must be based on the following:
- location within the facility
- type of surfaces to be cleaned
- type of soil present
- the tasks or procedures to be performed in the area
Employees can be exposed to blood or OPIM through contact with the following:
- equipment and working surfaces
- protective coverings
- reusable containers
Equipment and Working Surfaces
All equipment and working surfaces must be cleaned and decontaminated after contact with blood or OPIM.
- Contaminated equipment, such as IV poles, require labels or tags in accordance with
29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(1)(i)(H).
- Such equipment, if grossly contaminated, must be cleaned with soap and water solution before decontamination. Some anti-microbial products will not work in the presence of blood, which interferes with the sterilizing process.
Protective coverings, such as plastic wrap or aluminum foil, must be removed and replaced as soon as possible, when they become overtly
contaminated, or at the end of a work shift if they may have become contaminated during the shift
[29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(B)].
All bins, pails, cans, and similar receptacles intended for reuse which have a reasonable likelihood for becoming contaminated
with blood or other potentially infectious material shall be inspected and decontaminated on a regularly scheduled basis.
It must be cleaned and decontaminated immediately or as soon as feasible upon visible contamination
[29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(C)].
Broken glassware which may be contaminated must not be picked up directly with hands; use mechanical means, such as use a brush and dustpan, tongs or forceps
[29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(4)(ii)(D)].
Contaminated laundry may include bed sheets and blankets, towels, personal clothing, patient apparel, uniforms, scrub suits, gowns, and drapes for surgical procedures. Contaminated textiles and fabrics may contain high numbers of microorganisms from body substances, including blood, skin, stool, urine, vomitus, and other body tissues and fluids. The laundry process starts with the removal of used or contaminated textiles, fabrics, and/or clothing from the areas where contamination occurred.
Some facilities incorrectly allow employees to rinse contaminated laundry or laundry that might contain sharps, in dirty utility "hopper" rooms, instead of simply putting it in a container and then transporting it to the laundry. Sorting or rinsing contaminated laundry at the location where contamination occurred is prohibited by OSHA.
Bloodborne Pathogen Standard requirements and best practices include:
- Employees must wear protective gloves, appropriate eye protection, outer garments, and other PPE as necessary when handling contaminated laundry.
- Bag, securely close, and handle contaminated laundry at the location where it was used.
- Transport contaminated laundry in bags or containers labeled or color-coded regardless of whether the laundry is transported within the facility or transported to an off-site laundry service.
- When universal precautions are when handling soiled laundry, alternative labeling or color-coding is sufficient. This is only the case if the labeling allows all employees to recognize the containers as requiring compliance with universal precautions.
For more in-depth information on the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, please see OSHAcademy course
655 Bloodborne Pathogens in the Workplace.
There are several recommended safe work practice controls your employer can implement. Here are a few ideas:
- Laundering agents (e.g., 10% bleach) should be effective in inactivating bloodborne pathogens.
- Contaminated textiles and fabrics in bags can be transported by cart or chute. Laundry chutes should be maintained under negative air pressure to prevent the spread of microorganisms from floor to floor.
- Handle contaminated laundry with a minimum of agitation to help prevent the generation of potentially contaminated lint aerosols
- Sorting laundry before washing protects both the machinery and fabrics from hard objects and reduces the potential for recontamination of clean textiles.
- Use leak-resistant containment if the laundry is wet and capable of soaking through a cloth bag.
- Use melt away bags (dissolvable) for the bagging process. Melt away bags can be thrown directly into washers without having to unload or remove contaminated laundry from bags.
- Rinsing soiled laundry in utility rooms is acceptable, if it is not contaminated with blood, OPIM, or does not contain sharps.
- The ergonomic injuries that can occur while lifting, lowering, reaching, rinsing, and transporting wet heavy laundry must also be addressed. A lift or transfer device for the lifting of these materials is recommended.