Correctional Health Care Workers

Encourage Your Workers to Report Exposures

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Correctional health care workers may not always report exposures to blood or other body fluids* for many reasons. Some may feel it’s too time consuming to report. Others may believe an exposure is their fault or may be worried about loosing their job if an exposure is reported.

Why is it important for your workers to report exposures?

  • Reporting exposures better ensures your workers get the right care and treatment.
  • Understanding exposures will help you focus their training on common problems to keep these problems from happening again.
  • Knowing how exposures occur will help you identify medical devices and equipment that may be problematic at your facility. If you and your workers are aware of problematic equipment, you will be more informed when deciding what equipment should be replaced.

You can improve exposure reporting in your facility

Health care manager reviewing a documentIf exposures to blood or other body fluids* are possible, your facility must have a system in place for reporting and responding to an exposure.1,2Each facility’s Exposure Control Plan must detail what to do if an exposure happens and provide a plan for post-exposure follow-up.

Be sure your workers understand what is meant by an “exposure”.Exposures happen through needlesticks or cuts from other sharp instruments that have had contact with an infected patient’s blood or other body fluid*. Exposures can also happen through contact of the eyes, nose, mouth, or skin with an infected patient’s blood or other body fluid*.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, employers must provide bloodborne pathogen training to employees at least yearly. This training must include information on how bloodborne pathogens are spread. By ensuring your workers understand routes of exposure, they will be better protected.

Be sure your workers know the process for reporting an exposure.First, it’s important that workers know to report an exposure immediately after it happens. If treatment is needed, it is more likely to work if it begins as soon as possible (within hours) after an exposure.2

Second, be sure your workers know who to contact to report the incident. This is a person you designate, and list in your facility’s Exposure Control Plan.1The person you designate has the responsibility of deciding if post-exposure follow-up is needed.1
After general first aid (cleaning the wound, etc.) is done, other follow-up may include:

  • A confidential medical exam and counseling – made available at no cost to your employee at a time and place that is convenient.
  • Documenting the route of exposure and how the exposure happened.
  • Testing the source individual’s blood, unless the person is already known to be positive for HBV, HCV, or HIV.
  • Administering post-exposure medication (called prophylaxis) if recommended by the health care provider.

Encourage your workers to report all exposures. One way to do this is by ensuring exposure incident reports remain private. Also, assure your workers that reporting will not affect their job security or job performance reviews.

For more information on reporting exposures, download a free copy of the“Encourage Your Workers to Report Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures”brochureCdc-pdf[PDF – 262 KB]

*“Other body fluids” includes other potentially infectious material, such as semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and amniotic fluids, and any other body fluid that contains visible blood.

  1. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 2003.Model Plans and Programs for the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazard Communications StandardsCdc-pdfExternal.
  2. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2001.Updated U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to HBV, HCV, and HIV and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis MMWR 50(RR11);1-42.
Page last reviewed: August 18, 2010 (archived document)