What Are Some Universal Safety Precautions?


Quick Answer

Typical universal safety precautions include using gloves, face masks, eye protection and gowns as a protective barrier between infectious bodily fluids and caregivers, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Health care workers employ these infection-control practices to limit exposure to, and therefore infection from, bloodborne pathogens such as HIV.

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Full Answer

These universal safety precautions cannot prevent stick injuries, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers must exercise care when handling dirty needles or other sharps, and these items should be disposed of or cleaned very carefully. Universal precautions should be used with standard precautions, which include appropriate hand washing.

To improve the efficacy of universal precautions, the CDC notes that health care workers treat all patients as if they have HIV, the hepatitis B virus or another bloodborne pathogen. Workers employ the same protective barriers against vaginal and seminal fluids, although these present a lower risk of infection. Health care providers also treat human tissue, amniotic fluid and other bodily fluids as if they contain bloodborne pathogens.

Although it is possible for mothers to transmit HIV via breast milk, this is an unlikely method of transmission from patient to health care worker, reports the CDC. Exposure to bloodborne pathogens is also unlikely via saliva, with the exception of dentistry, where personal protective equipment is recommended. This equipment is not required for handling feces, urine and vomit, except when blood is visible.

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