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Bloodborne Pathogens: Understanding Controls

Your employer will put into place safe work practices, procedures, tools, and equipment (controls) to help guide and protect you from bloodborne pathogens (disease-causing germs carried in blood and other body fluids). But your employer's controls only work if you use them. Learn your employer's controls. Then follow them to protect yourself.

Two men looking at safety equipment in cabinet.

Work practice controls

Work practice controls are procedures designed to help keep you safe on the job and protect you from exposure and infection. For example, universal precautions (treating all blood and body fluid as potentially infectious) is a work practice control that helps protect you from bloodborne pathogens after an accident. Work practice controls can also help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

Engineering controls

These are tools that your employer provides that can help protect you from bloodborne pathogens. Engineering controls may include:

  • Bags or containers marked with the biohazard symbol for materials that are infected with blood or body fluids.

  • Tongs, pans, brooms, and other items that help you avoid touching potentially infected materials while cleaning up.

  • Cones and other markers to clearly identify areas where an accident has occurred.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE are protective barriers that your employer provides to help you protect your skin, eyes, mouth, and nose from blood and body fluids. Types of PPE include:

  • Protective gloves, gowns, and masks

  • A mouthpiece for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

  • Face shields and goggles

Most PPE items are meant to be used once and thrown away. Discard used PPE correctly, according to your employer's instructions, in properly marked biohazard bags or containers.

Know the action plan

Your employer may have an emergency action plan outlined — what to do in case of an accident. In any workplace, you should know your employer's safety procedures and what to do if an accident happens.


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