How Hotel Staff Can Minimize Exposure to Blood-Borne Pathogens

CHICAGO—Did you know? Exposure control plans against blood-borne infections are a must among hospitality employers.

Blood-borne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause diseases in humans, which include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Hotel workers can become exposed to these pathogens through injuries with needlesticks and bodily fluids.

“The hotel industry provides customers with a temporary residence; therefore, this typically results in a significant blood-borne pathogen exposure. Hotels typically do not have ample training around this safety topic,” said Ashley Henderson, assistant VP, senior risk consultant, risk services division, HUB International Limited. “Blood-borne pathogens are bodily fluids.  Examples of bodily fluids may include blood, semen, urine, tears, vomit, etc. Customers staying at hotels may also bring their medications into the hotels and it becomes the housekeeping staff’s responsibility to discard of the needles or trash kept within rooms. The exposure to blood-borne pathogens in the hotel industry is significant. Bodily fluids present at a hotel are not always visible, making this another challenge for staff members.”

HUB works with a variety of hospitality accounts, ranging from restaurants, hotels, resorts, museums, entertainment centers, etc. The company’s risk services division partners with these hospitality accounts to identify and access risk, as well as take appropriate measures to mitigate exposures and risks in their workplace. Blood-borne pathogens is an example.

Hoteliers must make efforts to minimize the risk in terms of exposure to blood-borne infections. For example, providing sharps containers within hotels is one of the most important aspects to minimizing the risk when it comes to needles, according to Henderson.

“Within minimizing risk, ideally we want to engineer out the exposure and give customers an opportunity to safely discard of needles, without putting the housekeeping or maintenance staff at risk,” she said. “Training is also another important aspect to blood-borne infections.  Employees should be properly trained on how to identify BBP exposure, have knowledge of personal protective equipment they should wear when cleaning rooms and understand how to handle and discard needles, bandages or other materials that might have bodily fluids present.”

Henderson outlines tips for hoteliers to take action now:

Training is key. Ensure qualified staff have been trained in depth regarding blood-borne pathogens (all employees should have a general understanding of BBP; however the hotel should have dedicated staff trained in depth on the exposure and how to mitigate it or dispose of it). Ensure these employees know how to identify BBP exposures; understand what PPE the staff should wear/proper technique for removing gloves/PPE; know how to properly discard of the product; and ensure the company has a protocol in place for employees exposed to BBP when unprotected.

Provide a disposal option. Ensure sharps containers are available to customers and hotel staff in order to properly discard of needles.

“While you cannot eliminate the BBP exposure within hotels, it is important employees are able to identify and take proper action is the discarding of the BBP material,” said Henderson. “Our HUB Risk Services department can help our hospitality clients with identifying the risk, understanding the risk, employee training and mitigating the hazard.”