Date: March 2020
Blood borne pathogens are one of many infectious materials with which some employees may come in contact while performing certain functions of their jobs. Workers exposed to blood borne pathogens are at risk of serious or life-threatening illness, including hepatitis B and C, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and tuberculosis.
To address these workplace exposures, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates employers have an exposure control plan when employees have a reasonable
risk of coming into contact with infectious materials.
Minnesota OSHA has adopted the Bloodborne Pathogen standard in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1910.1030, which requires employers whose employees may be exposed to infectious materials as part of their job to:
- establish a written exposure control plan to eliminate or minimize employee exposures. The plan must be updated annually.
- use emergency control devices that isolate or remove the blood borne pathogen hazard from the workplace.
- enforce practices that reduce the likelihood of exposure, such as the use of sharps disposal containers and self-sheathing needles.
- provide personal protective equipment—gloves, gowns and masks—and ensure the equipment is clean and remains defect-free.
- make hepatitis vaccinations available to all employees whose positions put them at a reasonable risk of coming into contact with blood borne pathogens and other infectious materials.
- provide, at no-cost to the employee, post-exposure follow-up care.
- identify the source individual if feasible and provide confidential medical evaluation and testing.
- use appropriate labels, bags or containers and signs to communicate hazards and restricted areas.
When an employee reports he or she has been exposed to a blood borne pathogen, the employer must take action, such as:
- investigate the claim and review the circumstances of the exposure.
- document the circumstances of the exposure.
- file a First Report of Injury.
- direct the employee to obtain immediate post-exposure medical care.
- execute the blood borne pathogen exposure control plan as appropriate.
The confidential medical evaluation and follow up for the exposed employee should include the following components:
- The identification and documentation of the source individual, unless the employer can establish that identification is not feasible or prohibited by state or local law.
- A test of the source individual’s blood as soon as feasible and after consent is obtained to determine hepatitis B virus and HIV infectivity. If consent is not obtained, the employer shall establish that legally required consent cannot be obtained.
- A test of the source individual’s blood (if available) when consent is not required by law and documented results.
- Availability of the source individual’s blood test results to the exposed employee. The employee shall be informed of applicable laws and regulations concerning disclosure of the identity and infectious status of the source individual.
- A test of the exposed employee’s blood as soon as feasible and after obtaining consent.
- Post-exposure prophylaxis when medically indicated as recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service.
- Evaluation of reported illnesses.
When the source individual is known to be infected with hepatitis B or HIV, testing for the source individual’s known hepatitis or HIV status is not required.
The exposure plan must require that employees be regularly trained about protocols to manage risks. It is not a one-size-fits-all model when dealing with blood borne pathogens. Training should be designed to address the specific pathogens with which each employee is likely to come in contact.
The code further requires the employer:
- provide training that addresses the dangers of blood borne pathogens, preventive practices and post-exposure procedures. Employers must offer this training on initial assignment, then at least annually. Certain positions including laboratory and production facility workers must receive specialized training.
- maintain employee medical and training records.
Workers’ Compensation for Employees Exposed to Blood Borne Pathogens
In Minnesota, an employee is entitled to medical treatment following exposure to a blood borne pathogen, provided the treatment is reasonable, necessary and directly related or incidental to the work exposure. Exposures to blood borne pathogens in the workplace should be reported to MCIT using a First Report of Injury form.
MCIT will investigate the claim if it arises out of employment and pay for appropriate medical treatment. An employee quarantined because of the exposure may be compensated for his or her wage loss. Workers’ compensation is not responsible to replace an employee’s bedding and clothing that was destroyed because of contamination with bodily fluids.
What About the Source?
MCIT is frequently asked if the cost of testing the source of the blood borne pathogen (e.g., inmate or combative patient) is covered as workers’ compensation. MCIT only pays for the cost of testing and treating employees as defined in the Workers’ Compensation statute, which does not extend to inmates or patients.
Members who have questions about workers’ compensation coverage for blood borne pathogen exposure should contact the MCIT workers’ compensation claims staff toll-free at 1.866.547.6516.
The Risk of Ebola Virus
Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by a viral infection. The first Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.
Researchers believe that the first patient became infected through contact with an infected animal. When an infection does occur in humans, it can be spread to others by:
- direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids, such as feces, saliva, urine, vomit, sweat and semen, of a person infected with Ebola.
- contact with objects (e.g., needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.
The virus in the blood and bodily fluids can enter another’s body through broken skin or unprotected mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth.
During an outbreak, the disease can spread quickly. Generally, family members and those in close contact with a person infected with Ebola are at high risk of becoming infected while caring for the ill person. A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.
Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates employers have an exposure control plan when employees have a reasonable risk of coming into contact with infectious materials.
Employees whose jobs might reasonably expose them to Ebola should be ready to implement appropriate infection control measures, such as use of personal protective clothing, sterilization of equipment and repeated use of disinfectants. Other appropriate procedures include:
- isolation of infected persons from contact with unprotected persons.
- avoidance of touching bodies of those who have died from Ebola.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in partnership with other state and federal agencies has studied Ebola virus disease information and planned for necessary measures. MDH has posted Ebola information and resources at Health.state.mn.us/diseases/ebola/index.html.
Minnesota employees who could potentially come into contact with Ebola-infected people or their bodily fluids in the workplace are protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030.
Minnesota OSHA expects employers to comply with this standard through screening and planning, engineering controls, training and the proper use of personal protective equipment.
Employers in need of assistance may contact or request a free consultation from Minnesota OSHA Workplace Safety Consultation at DLI.mn.gov/about-department/our-areas-service/minnesota-osha-workplace-safety-consultation or 651.284.5060.