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Bloodborne Pathogens and Biological Hazards Overview

Bloodborne Pathogens and Biological Hazards Overview

Bloodborne Pathogens and Biological Hazards Overview



Bloodborne pathogens are an ever existing threat for medical workers. It is important for anyone involved in medical care to familiarize themselves with ways of protecting themselves from said threat.

This topic provides an overview on common bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards in the healthcare setting, based on OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). [1] Upon reading this topic, healthcare professionals will learn the following:

  • Define bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards.
  • Identify common bloodborne pathogens and their transmission routes.
  • Understand the importance of infection control measures.
  • Learn strategies for preventing exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other biological hazards.
  • Know how to respond in case of exposure incidents.

For exposure to bloodborne pathogens due to needlestick injuries see topic "Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Injuries".



  • Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms that can cause disease in humans. [2] 
  • The following are common examples of pathogens:
    • Hepatitis B (HBV)
    • Hepatitis C (HCV)
    • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)


Routes and Transmission

The following are the common means by which bloodborne pathogens are transmitted [3]:
  • Accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharps
  • Contact between broken or damaged skin and infected body fluids (e.g. open wounds, wound exudate)
  • Contact between mucous membranes and infected body fluids
  • Sexual Contact
  • Sharing of hypodermic needles
  • From mothers to their babies at/before birth

Preventing Exposure

Occupational hazards have been traditionally controlled in terms of a hierarchy and presented in order of priority. Below are the controls to prevent needle-stick injuries and other blood exposures:
  • Elimination of Hazard
    • Refers to the complete removal of a hazard from the work area as the most effective way to control hazards.
  • Engineering controls
    • These are used to isolate or remove a hazard from a workplace
  • Administrative Controls
    • These are policies, such as SOPS, which aim to limit exposure to the hazard.
  • Work Practice Controls
    • These are controls to change the behavior of workers, and reduce exposure to occupational hazards
  • Personal Protective Equipment
    • These are controls to change the behavior of workers, and reduce exposure to occupational hazards.

Infection Control Measures

The following are minimum infection preventive precautions taken by healthcare team members and staff at healthcare facilities to prevent the spread of infections as defined by the CDC [4]:
  • Hand hygiene, proper washing of hands before and after patient contact
  • Use of appropriate protective equipment (i.e., gloves) before patient contact
  • Respiratory hygiene (i.e., covering your cough and sneeze)
  • Injection and sharp object safety and proper disposal
  • Cleaning of supplies and disposal of waste

Responding to Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure

Should someone be exposed to Bloodborne Pathogens, the following should be done to immediately: 
  • In cases of cuts, wash needlesticks and cuts with soap and water.
  • For splashes, immediately flush the splashed area (nose, mouth, or skin) with water.
  • For exposure to the eyes, irrigate the eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile wash.
  • Report all exposures promptly to ensure that you receive appropriate follow up care.


Various workplaces and industries have ways of dealing with different biohazards. The following are the common threat to health and safety of the workers [5]:
  • Animal Waste
  • Human bodily matter
  • Microbiological waste
  • Pathological waste
  • Sharp waste
  • Molds and yeasts
  • Organic material
  • Airborne Pathogens
  • Stinging insects

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NOTE: This is a controlled document. This document is not a substitute for proper training, experience, and exercising of professional judgment. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, neither the authors nor the Wound Reference, Inc. give any guarantee as to the accuracy of the information contained in them nor accept any liability, with respect to loss, damage, injury or expense arising from any such errors or omissions in the contents of the work.


  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA Standard 1910.1030 - Bloodborne pathogens . 2019;.
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Bloodborne Pathogens .;.
  3. BYU–Hawaii. Bloodborne Pathogens Modes of Transmission .;.
  4. Geneva: World Health Organization. WHO Best Practices for Injections and Related Procedures Toolkit. Occupational risks and management of bloodborne pathogens.. 2010;.
  5. Safety Culture. Understanding Biological Hazard Examples .;.
Topic 2440 Version 1.0


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