ATrain Education


Continuing Education for Health Professionals

Bloodborne Pathogens: HBV, HCV, and HIV

Module 4

Work Practice Controls

Work practice controls are intended to reduce the likelihood of exposure by changing the way a task is performed. They include appropriate procedures for handwashing, sharps disposal, lab specimen handling, laundry handling, and contaminated material cleaning (OSHA, 2013c). Work practice controls are commonly described in written procedures in the workplace.

Universal vs. Standard Precautions

[Material in this section is largely from OSHA, 2013c.]

The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard specifies “Universal Precautions shall be observed to prevent contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.” When you can’t tell the difference, “all body fluids should be considered potentially infectious.”

Source: CDC, 2013c.

Comparison of Universal and Standard Precautions


Universal precautions

Standard precautions

First proposed year



Proposed by

Federal OSHA


Authority is based on

Federal law



Workers only (not patients)

Workers and patients

Use precautions with

ALL patients

ALL patients

Protects from

Bloodborne pathogens only

Viruses, bacteria and protozoa

Stay out of

Blood and listed OPIM (see module 3)

All body fluids, mucous membranes and non-intact skin

Broadness of requirements

Limited to OSHA requirements

Broader than Universal Precautions

Is it legal to use Standard Precautions? Standard Precautions includes all the requirements of Universal Precautions and more. When you use Standard Precautions, you are in full compliance with OSHA’s requirement to use Universal Precautions.

The key provision of both types of precautions is that workers must avoid contact with blood and body fluids of all patients, regardless of diagnosis, because most people who do carry a bloodborne pathogen have no symptoms and often do not know themselves that they are an unknown carrier. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of all patients to protect yourself, your other patients, your co-workers, and your family.

Other Work Practice Controls

[Material in this section is largely from OSHA, 2013c.]

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard specifies other work practice controls:

  • Eating, drinking smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses are prohibited in work areas where there is reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure to body fluids. Some work places post signs where body fluids, used gloves, and specimens are not allowed, and permit eating and/or drinking in those areas.
  • Procedures involving blood or OPIM shall be performed in a manner to minimize splashing or generation of droplets. Mouth pipetting is specifically prohibited.
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