Bloodborne Pathogens: Universal Precautions


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines Universal Precautions as an approach to infection control to treat all human blood and body fluids as if they contain bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms found in human blood that can cause disease.

A Better Understanding of Universal Precautions

In 1987, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published “Recommendations for Prevention of HIV Transmission in Health-Care Settings,” which recommended that blood and body fluid precautions be used for all patients, regardless of their infection status. Prior to this, blood and body fluid precautions were only recommended when a patient was known or suspected to be infected with a bloodborne pathogen. Universal precautions include:

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  • Using disposable gloves and other protective barriers while examining all patients and while handling needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments.
  • Washing hands and other skin surfaces that are contaminated with blood or body fluids immediately after a procedure or examination.
  • Changing gloves between patients and never reusing gloves.

Universal precautions apply to the following body fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen and vaginal secretions
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • Synovial fluid
  • Pleural fluid
  • Pericardial fluid
  • Amniotic fluid

How are Bloodborne Pathogens Spread?

According to the American National Red Cross: “Bloodborne pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, are present in blood and body fluids and can cause disease in humans. The bloodborne pathogens of primary concern are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. These and other bloodborne pathogens are spread primarily through:

  • Direct contact. Infected blood or body fluid from one person enters another person’s body at a correct entry site, such as infected blood splashing in the eye.
  • Indirect contact. A person’s skin touches an object that contains the blood or body fluid of an infected person, such as picking up soiled dressings contaminated with an infected person’s blood or body fluid.
  • Respiratory droplet transmission. A person inhales droplets from an infected person, such as through a cough or sneeze.
  • Vector-borne transmission. A person’s skin is penetrated by an infectious source, such as an insect bite.

Follow standard precautions to help prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens and other diseases whenever there is a risk of exposure to blood or other body fluids. These precautions require that all blood and other body fluids be treated as if they are infectious. Standard precautions include maintaining personal hygiene and using personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls, work practice controls, and proper equipment cleaning and spill cleanup procedures.”

Call the Professionals at Aftermath for Blood Cleanups

Although developed for healthcare professionals, universal precautions should be taken by anyone who may have contact with blood or body fluids. It is recommended to call a bioremediation company to clean up a blood spill that is larger than a standard dinner plate. After an accident, homicide, suicide, or other trauma, many families do not know where to turn for help in the cleanup.

Aftermath safely and thoroughly cleans up potential bloodborne pathogens that are left behind after a trauma, and like hospital workers, we employ universal precautions to ensure the safety of our technicians and those we serve. To learn more about Aftermath and our services, read through these frequently asked questions.



The American National Red Cross: