Blood and other bodily fluids can contain dangerous pathogens that increase the risk of infection. When blood spills occur in hospitals, it is highly important to act with speed and care. Custodial staff should follow all policies and procedures to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of patients, clinicians and visitors.
What risks does spilt blood pose?
Some types of infections can be passed from person to person through contact with blood and other bodily fluids, such as saliva. Blood-borne viruses can be very harmful. When blood spills occur, it is very important to reduce exposure to potentially infected materials.
A person's chances of becoming infected depends on how they are exposed to blood pathogens. This is called the route of transmission. For example, if infected blood comes in contact with broken or punctured skin, the risk of infection is very high. Risk also increases if the blood contacts someone's eyes, mouth or nose. Certain conditions like eczema can also increase the risk of infection.
What should you do if you come in contact with spilt blood?
If you come in contact with someone else's blood or bodily fluids, you should take immediate steps to disinfect yourself:
- Wash the infected material from your skin with soap and running water.
- If the blood contacted broken skin, it's best to let the wound continue to bleed for a short time. Never rub the wound, as this could cause the infected material to go deeper inside.
- After you've taken immediate action to reduce your risk of infection, it's best to consult with a medical expert. A health care professional will want to know all of the details about your exposure so they can make an informed recommendation. They may want to take blood samples to check for infection.
Post-exposure treatments generally need to be applied within 48-72 hours, so it's important to act quickly if you believe you have been exposed to an infectious material.
What equipment do you need to clean up a blood spill?
To prevent exposure to blood-borne pathogens, cleaning staff should always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and face masks. Large spills may require cleaning staff to wear gowns or biohazard suits. If the area is not ventilated, respirators may also be recommended.
Cleaning staff should use equipment dedicated for biohazard cleanup. This equipment should not be used for cleaning common areas. A spill kit typically includes absorbent materials, disinfectants, tongs or forceps, biohazard bags and buckets and launderable mop heads.
10 steps to quickly manage a blood spill
The response to a biohazard spill should begin as soon as the incident occurs. Leaving spilt blood or bodily fluids on the floor greatly increases the risk that pathogens will spread to other areas of the hospital.
- Gather your equipment: Before interacting with the spill, cleaning staff should put on PPE, including disposable inner gloves, washable outer gloves, a face mask, shoe covers, eye protection and a protective gown. All equipment should fit properly and be free of holes, tears and rips. Next, cleaning staff should gather the following.
- Safety signs.
- A sprayable disinfectant labeled for biohazard clean up.
- Disposable absorbent materials.
- Biohazard bags.
- Biohazard labels.
- Sharps containers.
- Tongs, brushes and a dustpan.
- A flat microfibre mop
- Remove sharps and broken objects: Safety signs should be placed around the spill. If the blood spill is small and not known to contain infectious pathogens, any sharps or broken objects should be removed first. Cleaning staff should never touch contaminated objects with their hands. A pair of tongs can be used to place sharps in an appropriate, leak-free container.
- Soak up the spill: All visible areas of the spill should be covered with a highly absorbent, disposable material. For example, spill mops absorb blood and turn it into a gel to prevent leaks.
- Apply disinfectant to the area: With the absorbent materials laying over the spill, the custodian should spray the entire area with an appropriate disinfectant. Following the directions on the bottle, the disinfectant should remain on the area for up to 15 minutes. Afterwards, the custodian should work from the outer edges of the spills toward the center, scrubbing the surface thoroughly.
- Soak up the disinfectant: Throughout this process, used materials should be placed in a biohazard bag. Once all visible blood has been removed, the custodian should spray more disinfectant on clean towels and re-cover the spill area. These towels should also go in the biohazard bag and the area should be left to air dry.
- Dispose of cleaning materials: All biohazard bags and sharps containers should be disposed of according to hospital policy. Afterwards, the equipment used to clean the spill should be disinfected, rinsed and left to dry.
- Examine the area: The custodian should perform a final check of the area and remove the safety signs when appropriate. In addition, cleaning staff should examine themselves for accidental splashes. If anyone was exposed to the biohazard, they should be assessed by a medical professional.
- Remove your PPE and wash your hands: Disposable gloves, gowns and facemasks should be placed in biohazard bags. Custodians should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water. Use of a skin-safe disinfectant is also recommended.
- Document the spill and response: When the spill has been completely removed, it should be documented according to hospital policy. Custodians may need to record which room the spill occurred in, how long it took to remove the biohazard as well as the names of any staff involved in the incident.
Managing spills that are known to be infected
If a blood spill is known to contain infectious pathogens, cleaning staff should not attempt to remove sharps and broken objects before cleaning the area. Instead, everything should be sprayed with disinfectant immediately.
It is recommended to pour disinfectant around the perimeter of the of the spill. Then, everything should be covered in absorbent materials and sprayed again. Sharps and towels should be carefully removed with tongs and placed in a biohazard container. Spill clean up can then proceed.
Speed and attention to detail are essential
A rapid response and meticulous attention to detail are two keys to safe and effective management of blood spills. By following the steps above, hospital staff can maintain hygienic conditions for patients, visitors and themselves.
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