If you are responsible for cleaning up after doctors and other medical staff at a health care facility in Missouri, you will face the same hazards they face. For that reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict regulations related to the decontamination and cleaning procedures. Furthermore, your employer is responsible for your safety, and a part of that responsibility is to ensure that you are aware of the dangers and risks you will face.
Blood and OPIM
The list of threats to your health and safety is almost endless, and they include the following:
- Every one of your tasks exposes you to contaminated work environments, soiled laundry, and unknown dangers contained in garbage containers.
- The risk of interaction with bloodborne pathogens or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) is significant.
- OPIM includes human bodily fluids like vaginal secretions, semen, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid and more.
Accidental injuries and allergies
Accidents can involve slips or trips and falls, cuts that cause broken skin and other injuries that will increase your vulnerability. Awareness of the following risks might protect you:
- Always wear personal protective equipment such as an apron, safety goggles and gloves that are latex-free because latex could cause allergic reactions.
- Treat and cover broken skin immediately to avoid exposure to contamination and infections.
- Be aware of slip hazards as you clean floors, and make sure mats are placed appropriately to avoid trips.
Do not lose sight of the dangers of rushing and taking shortcuts.
OSHA requires any equipment and surfaces that came into contact with OPIM or blood to be sterilized and decontaminated. The following objects pose risks:
- Be careful while you clean equipment like reusable containers, protective coverings and glassware.
- Take special care if you have to deal with broken glassware.
- OSHA requires labeling to identify all contaminated areas to allow you to use appropriate methods of sterilizing and decontamination.
According to OSHA, cleaning contaminated areas as soon as possible is crucial because the hepatitis B virus remains active on contaminated surfaces and equipment or dried blood for as long as seven days.
Sharps include all needles and pointed objects used in medical facilities, and the risk of exposure to OPIM and blood is significant for housekeepers. The following hidden dangers may threaten your safety
- Examine bedding bound for the laundry for hidden sharps.
- Prevent spillage of overfull containers of discarded sharps.
- Look out for improperly closed and labeled sharps containers that leak or show punctures.
OSHA has strict standards for the disposal of sharps.
Dealing with contaminated laundry requires compliance with the following Bloodborne Pathogens Standard:
- Handle contaminated laundry with as little agitation as possible.
- Seal contaminated laundry at the source in appropriately color-coded laundry bags.
- Take care when you remove contaminated laundry from the bags to load the washing machines.
Melt-away bags are available that will allow contaminated laundry to go directly into the washing machines and avoid the risks of handling it.
How will you cope with infections or contamination?
You might find comfort in knowing that the Missouri workers’ compensation insurance system will cover your medical expenses and lost wages if a work-related injury or illness caused a temporary disability. Although the claims process might seem daunting at a time when you would instead wish to focus on getting back to work, help is available. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can navigate the entire process on your behalf.