Be Safe When Cleaning-up Bloodborne Pathogen Events

While training almost 500 custodians on Bloodborne Pathogen Clean-up Procedures over 4 days in Maine, it’s not just the custodians gaining some knowledge.  I also gained some new knowledge myself.   The surprising thing to learn was how many of the schools participating did not provide a clean-up kit to their staff to properly and safely handle these clean-ups.   Considering their school districts had sent them to the required annual bloodborne pathogen clean-up training, many of the custodians shared how ill-equipped to handle vomit, blood, etc. in the manner required by OSHA and in the manner suggested by my training, which is based on the OSHA recommendations.

Yes, OSHA has outlined specific procedures to safely and effectively clean-up Bloodborne Pathogen events.   Simply, this refers to anytime human bodily fluids(blood, vomit, urine, feces, etc.) end up in a place they shouldn’t be, such as a floor, the wall, furniture, etc.   The ironic part of this, when discussing OSHA safety standards with school custodians, OSHA rarely inspects schools for occupational safety issues.   I have never heard about an OSHA inspection in a school department in over 25 years in this industry.   But, the health departments, and educational certification organizations do inspect schools and sometimes they want to be assured the school is following proper procedures as it relates to bloodborne pathogen exposure control.   If you want to read the detailed OSHA regulation you can visit the OSHA website.

The Key is Safety

But, here is the point of this article…  the primary goal of school administrators, and school facilities staffs should be to keep students, teachers, and the custodial staff safe and healthy, and based on my experience the past 3 months, and particularly my experience in Maine, it appears the majority of schools are failing to do all they can in regards to safely dealing with bloodborne pathogen events.    The importance of this cannot be stressed enough.   People can die or get very ill if bloodborne pathogen events are not handled correctly.   The ISSA states, “Exposure to bloodborne pathogens can cause serious disease in humans. Among the most troublesome bloodborne pathogens are Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), which causes serious liver disease, and Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS.”     I think we all know the seriousness of the diseases listed here, and yet with the chance of contracting one of these diseases much greater when blood is being cleaned up, many school administrators ignore the issue it seems.

Does the OSHA regulation require the use of a clean-up kit?  No.   …but, a clean-up kit assures the user will at the minimum have the basic materials necessary to safely handle a blood or vomit clean-up.  The alternative is to assemble all your needed stuff at the time you are notified to clean it up.  This takes time, when being fast and thorough are key requirements.  Then you need to be sure you have right materials and tools with you or at least available.   Not having a kit, probably means you have no foot covering(booties), a face mask or eye protection, or even a red bio-haz bag, because in my experience these are items rarely found in schools or listed on any school bid list.   Thus, the other reason a clean-up kit is important, as you will have all the materials you need to be safe readily available.  No searching and wasting time or doing the job part way.

Bleach as the disinfectant?

A key step in the clean-up process is the use of a disinfectant to assure you are effectively killing all unseen and possibly deadly pathogens.   During my training this part of the process generated the greatest debate amongst the attendees on how and why to properly disinfect the surface being cleaned.    It appears everyone has their own idea of what is correct and what can and cannot be done.  Using bleach as the disinfectant is usually one, where I get into the greatest debate.  Yes, bleach does a great job in killing all the bad things we cannot see, but is a lousy cleaner, leaves an irritating odor in the room, and is one of the most dangerous products you can use.  DO NOT USE BLEACH!!    Using acidified ionic water is also one I cannot advocate at this time, despite manufacturer’s claims to the disinfectant properties of these systems.   Until the US FDA, EPA, and CDC say it’s ok to use “water”, which has been acidified with an ionic charge, for disinfecting hospital surfaces, I wouldn’t consider it yet.   Yes, I have read all the claims, read all the data, but if it’s so safe and works so well, why hasn’t the US government approved the claims of the manufacturers?   …and I’d much rather be cautious and use US EPA approved hospital grade disinfectants, when cleaning up bloodborne pathogens.

I want you to be safe.   Your school department should want you to be safe.   Your school department should be looking out for the safety of all students and staff.   Look into getting some Bloodborne Pathogen clean-up kits today for your school or institution.   While I try to keep my blogs discussing information and in doing so educate and inform my audience without actually trying to sell something…  in this case I will differ from my objective, as the kit I am mentioning is THE BEST kit on the market, and won an innovation awards from the ISSA in 2013.   When looking at clean-up kits, please examine the AirX RX75 PCC Kit.   The ONLY kit on the market with a liquid hospital grade disinfectant, which is so important to assure proper dwell times to for the most effective kill, and the ONLY multi-event kit, as all the other kits are single use.   

Please reach out to me for more information or to comment on this or any of our blogs.

Author:  Jack Collins, Regional Sales Manager, The Bullen Companies