Correctional Health Care Workers: Simple and Safe Work Practices

Information for Workers – Simple and Safe Work Practices

Through regular use of safe work practices, you can lower your chances of being exposed to a bloodborne disease.

You probably realize it’s possible to get a bloodborne disease if you are exposed to an infected inmate’s blood. However, you may also feel your chances of exposure are low if you do things properly. So, what does it mean to “do things properly”?

Safe work practices can lower your chance of exposure to a bloodborne disease

There are many ways you can protect yourself from bloodborne viruses. Here are just a few:



Sharps container


Close-up of a worker wash her hands with soap and water
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B virus is one bloodborne pathogen people can be vaccinated against. If you may be exposed to blood or other body fluids* while at work, your employer is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to provide you with the hepatitis B vaccination for free.

Currently, no vaccine exists to protect against hepatitis C virus or HIV.

  • Use protective barriers or personal protective equipment (PPE). This can prevent blood and other body fluids* from coming in contact with your skin, eyes, and mouth.1,2,3
  • Appropriate forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be available, in good condition, and readily accessible to you, such as:
    • Aprons
    • Face shields
    • Gloves
    • Goggles
    • Gowns
  • PPE must be available in sizes to fit you and other workers, and should be kept in areas where you may need PPE.1,2
  • Handle and dispose sharps the right way. This can lower your chance of getting stuck with a used needle or sharp.
    • Discarded used needles, scalpel blades, syringes, and other sharps into a sharps disposal container.1,3
    • Do not be bend, break, or recap used needles.1,3
    • Keep sharps disposal containers as close to your work area as possible, so that they are readily accessible.1
  • When possible, use safer medical devices, such as needleless systems and sharps with built-in safety features. This can lower your chances of a needlestick. Be aware that when choosing new devices, your employer is required by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to get input from workers who are not managers and who directly care for patients.1
  • Be trained on new devices before using them.1,2You may actually have a higher chance of being exposed if you don’t know how to use a device correctly.
  • Wash your hands properly. Proper hand washing can get rid of most viruses and bacteria.4
  • Because of small defects, your gloves may not completely protect you against viruses and bacteria. Washing your hands before and after wearing gloves can get rid of most germs.2,3
  • Use antiseptic gels to clean your hands if they are not visibly dirty or have only a small amount of blood on them.2,4Be sure to wash with soap and water if your hands are more heavily soiled. If you use an antiseptic gel, OSHA still requires that you wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible.1
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that have been contaminated with blood or other body fluids*. This can lower your chance of being exposed to a bloodborne disease through cross-contamination .2
  • Work surfaces and reusable equipment must be disinfected if they have, or may have, come in contact with blood or other body fluids*.1
  • Contaminated surfaces must be wiped down using an appropriate disinfectant such as an EPA-approved disinfectant.1,2EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectants are best for cleaning surfaces contaminated with blood.5Disinfectants that kill the bacteria that cause tuberculosis can also kill HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses.

* “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. (29 CFR Part 1910.1030) Bloodborne Pathogen Standardexternal icon. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  2. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 1989.Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis B Virus to Health-Care and Public-Safety Workers A Response to P.L. 100-607 The Health Omnibus Programs Extension Act of 1988. MMWR Vol. 38(S-6): 3-37.
  3. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 1987.Recommendations for Prevention of HIV Transmission in Health-Care Setttings. MMWR Vol. 36(SU02); 001
  4. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 2002.Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings: Recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force. MMWR. Vol. 51(RR16);1-44.
  5. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).Standard Interpretations: 02/28/1997 – EPA-Registered Disinfectants for HIV and HBV.external icon
Page last reviewed: August 18, 2010