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Home > Topics > Safety
August 03, 2010
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

How to reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens

A recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reviews safety measures medics can take

A recently released publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health puts the spotlight on paramedics' risk of exposure to blood from patients.

Titled, "Workplace Solutions: Preventing Exposures to Bloodborne Pathogens among Paramedics," the article summarizes the results of a national study in which 2,664 paramedics were surveyed from across the country.

These results were compared against similar data points for paramedics working in California.

It is interesting to note that 22 percent of all paramedics surveyed had been exposed to blood in the previous year. However, California-based paramedics had 25 percent fewer needlesticks and half the national rate of blood exposure.

What is different between the two populations?

California implemented a needle stick prevention law several years before a similar national law, which requires essentially needleless IV administration systems to be used, and that all sharp needles have some type of safety mechanism in place.

This certainly makes good sense, as 80 percent of needlesticks in the study involved non-safety devices.

Another interesting point was that while 80 percent of the paramedics in the survey reported they had access to safety goggles and face/surgical masks, most splashes to the eye or nose occurred when the safety equipment was not used.

The publication concluded that, "Exposure rates among California paramedics and among most hospital workers suggest that practical steps can be taken to effectively reduce exposures. This includes always providing and using appropriate safety devices and PPE and promoting adherence to safety procedures.

"These steps will help protect the health of paramedics, their co-workers and family members, and the general public."

Where do you carry your PPE? Is it tucked inside your first-in kit, or ensconced inside the rig? The more accessible it is to you, the more likely you will use it!

The publication can be accessed here. It's a short read — check it out.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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