It is essential to address the potential risks to health and safety in any workplace by completing a general risk assessment. In addition to this and their legal responsibilities under COSHH, employers should also do the following to determine whether specific risk controls against BBV exposure are required:
Identify the hazards
- Are there any sources of blood and body fluids in the workplace?
- Are there any activities being undertaken that may involve exposure to these blood and body fluids?
- Are the blood and body fluids a source of BBV?
Decide who might be harmed and how
- Who may be involved in the activities posing risk?
- How may they be affected if exposed to sources of BBV?
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
- How likely is it that harm will result from exposure?
- Factors to take into account include:
- standard operating procedures eg universal precautions
- frequency and extent of potential exposure
- characteristics of the organism eg survival times, infectious dose
Record your findings and implement them and any relevant control measures, to include consideration of:
- Policy and procedures eg sharps policy, decontamination policy, spills and fumigation procedures
- Engineering controls and work practices eg microbiological safety cabinets, planned preventative maintenance (eg cleaning, inspection, maintenance)
- Training in safe operating procedures
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Immunisation – a preventative control measure
Regular reassessment of identified risks and any control measures, for example:
- Review of risk assessment and update if necessary
- Review and repeat of training, as necessary
- Review of immunisation status
- Identify any significant changes (eg working practices, safer sharps)
- Assess any new information
Further information on the key elements of the risk assessment process can be found in: Risk management .
When assessing the risks associated with potential exposure to BBV, don't overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. Most employers should already know whether, and how, their employees could potentially be exposed to BBV. If so, checks should be made to ensure that reasonable precautions are in place to avoid exposure.
There are additional requirements for more specialised work involving the deliberate handling and genetic modification of blood-borne viruses. The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) has produced guidance on managing the risks of biological agents in laboratory and healthcare premises, see:
Infection at work: Controlling the risks