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When An Exposure Occurs

What to do When You are Exposed

When an exposure occurs, immediate self-care is the highest priority.  Flush potentially contaminated materials from the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth with large amounts of running water.

Allow a puncture wound from a potentially contaminated sharp object to bleed.  Wash the wound with soap and water.

Wash potentially contaminated material off your skin with soap and water as quickly as possible after an exposure.  Washing is especially important when you have cuts, rashes, or scrapes on your skin.

When available, use a face and eye wash station to flush the eyes, nose, or mouth if they are exposed to blood or bodily fluids.

1. While providing first aid treatment to a fellow employee, Maria had blood sprayed into her eyes. What should Maria do first?

a. Report the incident to her supervisor
b. Go to a hospital
c. Provide immediate self-care
d. Continue working

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What do you do next?

After self-care, report the exposure incident without delay.  This allows for timely testing of the source individual and, if necessary, the employee.

You will be directed to a healthcare professional for medical evaluation as soon as possible after receiving the source individual's test results.  The evaluation will document the route of exposure and how the exposure occurred.  There is no cost to you for this evaluation.

2. You are exposed to contaminated material and finish immediate self-care. What do you do next?

a. Discontinue your job and go home
b. Ask the safety committee for guidance
c. If possible, continue with your job
d. Report the exposure incident without delay

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Post-Exposure Therapy

blood draw

If you are exposed to HIV-infected blood, most medical facilities offer short-term therapy called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). This therapy must begin as soon as possible after the exposure. PEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV by as much as 80 percent.

The evaluation will also include counseling and education regarding the testing process and the ramifications of the exposure.  This includes sexual practices information for the six month post-exposure evaluation period.

The employer must obtain and provide the worker with a copy of the evaluating healthcare professional's written opinion within 15 days of completion of the evaluation.

According to OSHA's standard, the written opinion should only include:

  • whether hepatitis B vaccination was recommended for the exposed worker;
  • whether or not the worker received the vaccination; and
  • a statement that the healthcare provider informed the worker of the results of the evaluation and any medical conditions resulting from exposure to blood or OPIM which require further evaluation or treatment.

Any findings other than these are not to be included in the written report.

3. What should you receive as soon as possible after being exposed to HIV-infected blood?

a. Ultra-violet light scan
b. A blood transfusion
c. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
d. HIV vaccination

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Patrick is a nurse working in the emergency department of the local hospital. During one of his shifts he is accidentally jabbed by a used needle. The needle punctures his skin and draws blood.

What should Patrick do?

Immediate self care is Patrick's first priority.

He needs to allow the puncture wound to bleed, hopefully flushing any contaminates out of his body.

Next, he should wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water.

After self-care, Patrick needs to report the incident to his direct supervisor, so an injury report can be completed. Patrick will then be seen by a health care professional to determine the best course of treatment for him. Sometimes it is possible to test for various diseases if the exposure source can be identified. This is not always possible.

For more information on hepatitis B vaccination protection see OSHA's Fact Sheet.

4. What is the first priority if an employee is stuck by a used needle?

a. Cover the wound with a bandage
b. Perform immediate self care
c. Tell the supervisor
d. Get a vaccination

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