Bloodborne Pathogens

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Needle sticks and other sharps-related injuries may expose workers to bloodborne pathogens. Workers in many occupations, including first aid team members, housekeeping personnel in some industries, nurses and other healthcare personnel, may be at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

What can be done to control exposure to bloodborne pathogens?

In order to reduce or eliminate the hazards of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, an employer must implement an exposure control plan for the worksite with details on employee protection measures. The plan must also describe how an employer will use a combination of good work practice and ensure the use of personal protective clothing and equipment, provide training, medical surveillance, hepatitis B vaccinations, and signs and labels, among other provisions. Engineering controls are the primary means of eliminating or minimising employee exposure and include the use of safer medical devices.

AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Disease:

AIDS is caused by a human immune-deficiency virus (HIV). The virus attacks the body’s natural immune system and makes it vulnerable to infections, which will eventually cause death. Some people are known to be HIV positive, which means that they are carrying the virus without any symptoms of AIDS. HIV carriers are able to pass on the virus to someone else through infected blood or tissue fluid, for example, through cuts or broken skin.

The virus does not live for long outside the body.

Hepatitis B:

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids, including sex with an infected partner, injection-drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment and needle sticks or exposures to sharp instruments.

As of 2016, 27 million people (10.5% of all people estimated to be living with hepatitis B) were aware of their infection, while 4.5 million (16.7%) of the people diagnosed were on treatment. According to the latest WHO estimates, the proportion of children under five years of age chronically infected with HBV dropped to just under 1% in 2019, down from around 5% in the pre-vaccine era ranging from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.

Hepatitis C: 

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV): the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus: the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood. This may happen through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products, and sexual practices that lead to exposure to blood.

Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

There is currently no effective vaccine against hepatitis C; however, research in this area is ongoing.

Dealing with body fluids:

If blood or body fluids have to be mopped, ensure that disposable gloves, apron and disposable paper are used. All disposable items should then be placed in a yellow plastic sack and destroyed by incineration.

Neat chlorine bleach should be used as the sterilising agent on blood spills. The bleach treatment will destroy the viruses, which will cause AIDS and Hepatitis B.

Ways to protect yourself and clients

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

This act covers your requirements under the COSHH regulations. You are required to wear or provide to your employee’s protective clothing or equipment (PPE) to ensure their health and safety when handling chemicals or coming into contact with bodily fluids.

What PPE will you need?


  • Powder-free non-latex Gloves that must be changed for each new client.
  • Disposable aprons.
  • Face Masks
  • Eyewear (optional)

Some therapists like to wear eye protection, although the risk is very low from spillages or splashes. However, a new apron, facemask and gloves should be worn before each new client.