Learning objectives: The learner will be able to


All items that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids must be disposed of properly. This minimizes the risk of anyone being exposed.

Sharps are objects that can potentially pierce the skin. Examples are needles, broken glass, or anything with a point or sharp edge. These items must be disposed of in a hard-sided container that is marked as a biohazard. Such containers are referred to as “sharps containers.” They should be readily available in an area where sharps are handled to minimize the need to transport the “sharp” to another area for disposal.1



Sharps disposal (needles and sharp objects)

If you are utilizing needles, do not recap them before disposal. Be sure there is a biohazard sharps container close by and place the used sharps inside.2 If a sharps container is unavailable and you must recap, it should be done utilizing the “one-handed method”: the cap is placed on a hard surface and “scooped” onto the needle. Never place the cap back on the needle using your other hand.




Although ideally we would like to avoid them, spills are going to happen. If a spill occurs that involves blood or body fluids, protect yourself first and put on your protective equipment. Utilize an approved surface cleaner and be sure to remove all potentially hazardous materials.3 Dispose of both the blood or body fluid that was spilled, and anything that came in contact with it during the cleaning process, in an appropriately labeled biohazard bag. Wash your hands and be sure that you have cleaned yourself thoroughly. Lastly, complete any appropriate paperwork that your employer requires.

Each employer will have a biohazard disposal policy in place. You need to follow this policy to remain safe at your place of employment.


Some pathogens can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time. It is important to thoroughly clean surfaces once contamination has occurred. Although each company has its policy on how to clean up a spill, some steps are always performed:

  1. Protect yourself first. Put on all protective clothing that is appropriate for the spill. For example, if there is any chance that there may be a splash, be certain to have eye protection. Gloves should always be used.
  2. Absorbent material should be used to wipe the area (take care to keep the used towels or other material in a contained area for disposal).
  3. Clean the area with a disinfectant provided by your employer.
  4. Dispose of used towels and personal protective equipment in appropriate containers.


Every employer will have a policy on reporting employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens. See that you are familiar with the one that is being utilized by your employer. Documentation should be completed as soon as possible following a cleanup.


There are many resources available for information on bloodborne pathogens. A standard set of guidelines is OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).

If you are an employer, there are certain provisions that the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires you to make for your employees. The exact requirements will depend on the size of your company and the risk of exposure for the workers. The following is an outline of the requirements:4

  1. Exposure control plan: the purpose of this plan is to eliminate or minimize the chances that your employees will be exposed to bloodborne pathogens while at work. It includes descriptions of all the jobs and tasks that subject workers to risk. You must change the plan as new information or equipment becomes available that can reduce the risk of exposure or better protect your employees. The plan has to be reviewed at least annually for required updates. Your employees must be asked to identify areas where they believe they are at risk and ways to reduce that risk.
  2. Universal precautions should be taken by all employees to protect themselves from exposure.
  3. Engineering controls are devices that eliminate or reduce exposure. Examples are sharps containers or equipment designed to handle specimens.
  4. Work Practice controls are policies that ensure that the safest possible method is used when high-risk procedures are done. An example of a work practice control would be a policy requiring the use of personal protective equipment when transporting blood samples from the place they are drawn to the laboratory. These should be written and reviewed in collaboration with the personnel who are directly involved in performing risky tasks.
  5. Personal protective equipment must be supplied and maintained at no cost to the workers.
  6. Hepatitis B vaccination must be made available to an employee at no cost within 10 days of starting a job that has the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
  7. Post-exposure evaluation and follow-up of any employee who has been exposed while carrying out job-related tasks. These must be provided at no cost to the worker.
  8. Labels and signs must be placed to alert workers to hazards. Anything that is used to store, transport, or hold blood or body fluids must be properly labeled. Anything that contains items that have been contaminated, such as laundry, must also be properly labeled.
  9. Training and information regarding bloodborne pathogens and the risk of exposure must be provided to all employees at risk. Records of this training must be kept by the employer. You must also document any incident of exposure such as injury from sharps.

Works cited

  1. Corbin DE. Bloodborne pathogens: updating sharps safety. J Healthc Prot Manage. 2001; 17: 68-72.
  2. Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens; needlestick and other sharps injuries; final rule. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Labor. Final rule; request for comment on the Information Collection (Paperwork) Requirements. Fed Regist. 2001; 66: 5318-5325.
  3. Beltrami EM, Williams IT, Shapiro CN, et al. Risk and management of blood-borne infections in health care workers. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000;13:385-407.
  4. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html