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Infection prevention and control guidelines

8. Exposure to blood and other body substances

Responsibilities for managing exposure to blood and body substances

      1. Responsibilities for managing exposure to blood and body substances

Last revised: 18 Aug 2023

Responsibilities for managing exposure to blood and body substances

The practice must have written policies and procedures to manage accidental exposure to blood or body substances, whether by penetrative injury or splash to eyes, mucous membranes or broken skin. These policies should be relevant to the daily routines of the practice and must be reviewed and updated regularly (Table 8.1. Policies and procedures to prevent blood-borne infections). 

In the event of an exposure incident, all staff must know:

  • what to do immediately after an exposure
  • who is responsible for ensuring that necessary activities are carried out
  • who to report to.

Staff must have immediate access to contact details of the nearest emergency department (including location), the nominated external service provider to whom the practice refers, and the health authority to which they must report exposures.

Employers must ensure that staff receive regular training and education appropriate for the tasks they are expected to perform.

Staff involved in exposure-prone procedures must have access to appropriate information, training, counselling and vaccination programs.

It is mandatory to report occupational exposures immediately to a designated person, if present, for advice and further treatment, if indicated and available. All testing procedures and follow-up treatment must be fully documented. Practices must follow their state or territory requirements for reporting sharps injuries and exposures to blood or other body substances.

If the incident occurred during a procedure, the possibility of the patient being exposed to the injured health professional’s blood must also be considered. If there is a risk of that a patient was exposed to a health professional’s blood, the guidance on risk assessment, screening test and treatment for the exposed person must be applied to the patient.

After the exposure incident has occurred and been managed, the employer must analyse the cause and modify procedures as required to reduce the risk of recurrence and protect staff.

Healthcare workers have a responsibility to know whether they have blood-borne infections. Practices could encourage self-disclosure by ensuring confidentiality and, where practical, by providing counselling and modification of work practices or redeployment to reduce risk of transmission, if necessary.

Healthcare workers with blood-borne infections should be advised by their treating clinician about any limitations to exposure-prone procedures they can perform.

Table 8.1. Policies and procedures to prevent blood-borne infections

Each practice must have clear policies and procedures for all of the following:

Safe handling and disposal of sharps

Safe handling and transport of specimens

Safe handling and disposal of waste

Environmental cleaning

Appropriate management of blood and body substance spills

Safe handling and cleaning of reusable medical devices

Exposure to blood and body substance

Hand hygiene

Where patients and staff can access personal protective equipment

How and when staff members are educated on the appropriate application, removal, and disposal of personal protective equipment.