Universal precautions (“UPs”) are intended to prevent transmission of infection, as well as decrease the risk of exposure for employees and students. It is not currently possible to identify all infected individuals, thus precautions must be used with every individual. UPs pertain to blood and other potentially infectious materials (“OPIM”) containing blood. These precautions do not apply to other body fluids and wastes (“OBFW”) such as saliva, sputum, feces, tears, nasal secretions, vomitus and urine unless blood is visible in the material. However, these OBFW can be sources of other infections and should be handled as if they are infectious.
The single most important step in preventing exposure to and transmission of any infection is anticipating potential contact with infectious materials in routine as well as emergency situations. Based on the type of possible contact, employees and students should be prepared to use the appropriate precautions prior to the contact. Diligent and proper hand washing, the use of barriers, appropriate disposal of waste products and needles, and proper decontamination of spills are essential techniques of infection control. All individuals should respond to situations practicing UPs followed by the activation of the school response team plan. Using common sense in the application of these measures will enhance protection of employees and students.
Proper hand washing is crucial to preventing the spread of infection. Textured jewelry on the hands or wrists should be removed prior to washing and kept off until completion of the procedure and the hands are rewashed. Use of running water, lathering with soap and using friction to clean all hand surfaces is key. Rinse well with running water and dry hands with paper towels.
- Hands should be washed before physical contact with individuals and after contact is completed.
- Hands should be washed after contact with any used equipment.
- If hands (or other skin) come into contact with blood or body fluids, hands should be washed immediately before touching anything else.
- Hands should be washed whether gloves are worn or not and, if gloves are worn, after the gloves are removed.
Barriers anticipated to be used at school include disposable gloves, absorbent materials and resuscitation devices. Their use is intended to reduce the risk of contact with blood and body fluids as well as to control the spread of infectious agents from individual to individual. Gloves should be worn when in contact with blood, OPIM or OBFW. Gloves should be removed without touching the outside and disposed of after each use.
Disposal of Waste
Blood, OPIMs, OBFWs, used gloves, barriers and absorbent materials should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in the usual procedure. When the blood or OPIM is liquid, semi-liquid or caked with dried blood, is not absorbed in materials, and is capable of releasing the substance if compressed, special disposal as regulated waste is required. A band-aid, towel, sanitary napkin or other absorbed waste that does not have the potential of releasing the waste if compressed would not be considered regulated waste. It is anticipated schools would only have regulated waste in the case of a severe incident.
Needles, syringes and other sharp disposable objects should be placed in special puncture proof containers and disposed of as regulated waste. Bodily wastes such as urine, vomit or feces should be disposed of in the sanitary sewer system.
Spills of blood and OPIM should be cleaned up immediately. The employee should do the following:
- Wear gloves;
- Clean up the spill with paper towels or other absorbent material;
- Use a solution of one part household bleach to one hundred parts of water (1:100) or other EPA-approved disinfectant and use it to wash the area well;
- Dispose of gloves, soiled towels and other waste in a plastic bag;
- Clean and disinfect reusable supplies and equipment.
Laundry with blood or OPIM should be handled as little as possible with a minimum of agitation. It should be bagged at the location. If it has the potential of releasing the substance when compacted, regulated waste guidelines should be followed. Employees who have contact with this laundry should wear protective barriers.
An exposure to blood or OPIM through contact with broken skin, mucous membrane or by needle or sharp stick requires immediate washing, reporting and follow-up. The employee should do the following:
- Always wash the exposed area immediately with soap and water;
- If a mucous membrane splash (a splash into the eye or mouth) or exposure of broken skin occurs, irrigate or wash the area thoroughly;
- If a cut or needle stick injury occurs, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
- The exposure should be reported immediately, the parent or guardian should be notified, and the person exposed should contact a physician for further health care.