Make hygiene a priority
The Safety First Association outlines some precautions against exposure to hazardous biological agents
The employer is obliged to protect the employee against health hazards associated with the effect of biological agents on the human body. This can be achieved by the following:
1. Hand washing
Hands must be washed when blood, body fluid, excreta, secretion and other contaminated items have been touched. They should also be washed after the removal of gloves, between patient contact, and if there is a likelihood of any other body part of the same patient being contaminated (cross-contamination).
Gloves have to be worn when touching blood, body fluid, excreta, secretion and any other contaminated item. Clean intact gloves have to be put on when touching mucous membranes or intact skin.
Gloves must be changed and disposed of between different tasks and procedures on the same person, and after contact with material or objects contaminated with hazardous biological agents (HBA). Gloves should be removed before any non-contaminated object is touched.
3. Masks, eye protection and face shields
These have to be worn where there is likelihood that blood, body fluid, excreta and secretion can affect the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.
4. Protective clothing
Sterile gowns and plastic aprons must be of such a nature that personal clothing cannot become soiled. Soiled protective clothing must be removed and considered as contaminated. Hands must be washed immediately after the removal of such clothing. Protective clothing has to be removed before leaving the patient’s environment and contact of such clothing with other objects or surfaces has to be avoided.
5. Patient care equipment
When this is used during the treatment of a patient, it has to be used in such a manner that other environments cannot become contaminated as a result thereof. Equipment has to be cleaned and sterilised before it can be used for the treatment of another patient.
Adequate disposable syringes and needles have to be readily available at all times and the disposal thereof has to be done in a safe manner. For example: use only puncture-proof disposal bins. Place disposal bins at the point where the deposable item is being used and transport the bins safely to the disposal area.
6. Environmental control
All equipment and surfaces of rooms have to be regularly cleaned. However, in case of significant soiling, such equipment and surfaces also have to be disinfected.
All linen contaminated with blood, body fluid, excreta, secretion, and so on, being handled and transported has to be put in impervious colour-coded containers.
8. Occupational health
Injuries – This section deals mainly with persons who can injure themselves with sharp instruments such as needles and scalpels. During handling and disposal, the following must be considered when working with a needle or syringe –
• It must never be manipulated or re-sheathed using both hands;
• Never point it towards any other body part;
• Never remove a needle from a disposable syringe by hand;
• Never break or bend needles by hand;
• Always put disposable needles and syringes in puncture-proof containers;
• Put the puncture-proof containers at the point where syringes are used; and
• Always transport disposal containers safely to the disposal area.
Resuscitation – Mouthpieces or resuscitation bags or other ventilation devices have to be used for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to prevent contamination by HBA.
9. Placement of patients
Patients who can contaminate the environment around them, or who cannot maintain appropriate personal hygiene, have to be placed in isolation areas such as private or single rooms.
10. Patient transport
The transportation of patients should be minimised and, if necessary, precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of infection or HBA – for example, the wearing of surgical masks by patients.