Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Work Practices

General Work Practices

Take all precautions to avoid contact with bloodborne pathogens.  Never touch your skin with potentially contaminated materials or the outside of your personal protective equipment (PPE); avoid splashing or spraying of materials; and practice good hand washing.

Handwashing is one of the most important (and easiest) practices used to prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens. Hands or other exposed skin should be thoroughly washed as soon as possible following an exposure incident.  Use soft soap, if possible. Avoid harsh, abrasive soaps, as these may open fragile scabs or other sores. See the CDC Directions for Washing Hands.

Hands should also be washed immediately (or as soon as feasible) after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment.  If you are working in an area without access to hand washing facilities, you may use an antiseptic cleanser in conjunction with clean cloth/paper towels or antiseptic towelettes.  If these alternative methods are used, hands should be washed with soap and running water as soon as possible.

Hand washing
If your work area presents a reasonable likelihood of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, do not:

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Smoke
  • Apply cosmetics or lip balm
  • Handle contact lenses

No food or drink should be kept in refrigerators, freezers, shelves, cabinets, or on counter tops where blood or potentially infectious materials are present.

Try to minimize the amount of splashing, spraying, splattering, and creating mists when performing any procedures involving blood or potentially infectious materials, and you should never pipette or suction these materials by mouth. When conducting research that may involve splashing or spraying or otherwise generating aerosols, these activities must be performed in a biosafety cabinet.


All surfaces, tools, equipment and other objects that come in contact with blood or potentially infectious materials must be decontaminated as soon as possible.  Equipment and tools must be cleaned and decontaminated before servicing or being put back to use.

Decontamination should be accomplished by using:

  • A solution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach / Clorox) diluted 1:10 with water; or,
  • An EPA-registered disinfectant.  Check the label of all disinfectants to make sure they meet this requirement.

If you are cleaning up a spill of blood, follow the procedure in your workplace Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan.  A suggested procedure is to carefully cover the spill with paper towels or rags, then gently pour the 10% bleach solution of over the towels or rags, and wait at least 10 minutes before cleaning up.   The ten minutes will ensure that any bloodborne pathogens are killed before you actually begin cleaning or wiping the material up.  Covering the spill with paper towels or rags decreases the chances of causing a splash when pouring the bleach solution.   Spills should only be cleaned up by those trained, equipped and assigned the task of blood spill clean up.

If you are decontaminating equipment or other objects (be it scalpels, microscope slides, broken glass, saw blades, clean up equipment, etc.) leave the disinfectant in place for at least 10 minutes before cleaning.

The 1:10 bleach disinfectant solution should only be kept one day since it loses its effectiveness over time.

When using disinfectants other than bleach solutions, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended clean up procedures.

If you have questions about your role in blood spill clean-up contact your supervisor.  Employees designated to clean-up blood spills are to read their Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan for spill cleanup procedures specific to your work area.


Housekeepers, custodians and others are potentially exposed to puncture or cut hazards by improperly disposed needles and broken glass.  This exposes them to any hazardous materials that might be present on the glass or needle.  For this reason, it is especially important to handle and dispose of all sharps carefully in order to protect yourself as well as others. Never pick up sharps by hand, use a broom and dustpan or tongs.


Needles should never be recapped.

  • Needles should be moved only by using a mechanical device or tool such as forceps, pliers, or broom and dustpan.
  • Never bend, break or shear needles.
  • Needles must be disposed of in labeled sharps containers.
  • Sharps containers shall be closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof on sides and bottom, and must be labeled or color-coded.

When sharps containers are being moved from the area of use, the containers must be closed to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents during handling or transport.

Broken Glassware

  • Broken glassware that has been contaminated with blood should be disinfected with an approved disinfectant solution before it is disturbed or cleaned up.
  • Glassware that has been decontaminated may be disposed of in an appropriate glass waste container (closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof on sides and bottom, with appropriate labels).  Glass disposal boxes may be obtained from WSU University Stores.
  • Broken glassware must not be picked up directly with the hands. Sweep or brush the material into a dustpan or use tongs.

Uncontaminated broken glassware may be disposed of in a glass waste container.

Proceed to the next module.