INFECTION CONTROL PROCEDURES

Overview

Infection control refers to procedures and activities which aim to prevent or minimise the risk of transmission of infectious diseases. Staff and students of the University working in a clinical setting or working in certain laboratories are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens including hepatitis B (Hep B), hepatitis C (Hep C) and human immuno deficiency virus (HIV) as well as occupational exposure to a range of microbiological agents.

Successful infection control is critical to maintaining a safe work environment. Identifying hazards, classifying the associated risks and implementing relevant control measures are key steps to successful infection control management.

These guidelines provide a basis for personnel working in areas where there is a risk of infection to develop detailed protocols and systems for infection control that apply to their specific setting, thereby providing assistance in reducing the risk of exposure and the likelihood of transmission of infection.

The information contained in this document is provided to support implementation of the University’s OHS Policy.

Scope

This guidance is designed for Heads of Schools/Disciplines/Units, staff, students and affiliates working in facilities where microorganisms or human blood/body fluid is handled. Staff/students working in a clinical setting should also refer to their local Area Health Service guidelines for infection control procedures.

Table of Contents

Definitions

Microbiological agent for the purpose of this document means a living organism (such as a bacteria, fungi, virus), too small to be seen with the naked eye but visible under a microscope and capable of causing a disease.

Roles and Responsibilities

Head(s) of Schools, Disciplines, Units
All Heads are responsible for ensuring that infection control procedures are implemented within their area of authority. This includes the provision of appropriate facilities and equipment; ensuring that risks are identified, assessed and controlled in consultation with the staff and students affected by the risks; the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and the allocation of sufficient time and resources to ensure that procedures are current and effective.

Supervisors/Lab Managers
All supervisors/lab managers are responsible for ensuring that infection control procedures are implemented within their area of authority. This includes ensuring that risks are identified, assessed and controlled in consultation with the staff and students affected by the risks; the development, implementation and review of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); provision of adequate training and supervision of staff and students taking into account the task and the relevant experience of the staff/students; and the allocation of sufficient time and resources to ensure that procedures are current and effective.

Staff/Affiliates/Students
All staff, affiliates and students are responsible for ensuring that they comply with all infection control procedures that are implemented within their area. This includes following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), taking actions to avoid, eliminate or minimise hazards and reporting hazards to the relevant supervisor.

Standard Precautions

The use of “Standard Precautions” is the basic risk minimisation strategy for handling potentially infectious material. Standard Precautions are recommended for the care and treatment of all patients in the clinical environment, regardless of their infectious status, and in the handling of:

  • Microbiological agents;
  • Blood (including dried blood);
  • All other body fluids, secretions, and excretions (excluding sweat), regardless of whether they contain visible blood;
  • Non intact skin; and
  • Mucous membranes


Standard Precautions are work practices required to achieve a basic level of infection control. They include the use of:

  • Good microbiological practices (e.g. aseptic technique, including use of skin disinfectants);
  • Good personal hygiene practices (particularly washing and drying hands before and after patient and specimen contact);
  • Use of personal protective equipment (which may include the wearing of gloves, gowns, plastic aprons, masks, face-shields and eye protection);
  • Waterproof coverings over any break in the skin;
  • Appropriate procedures for the handling and disposal of sharps; and
  • Appropriate procedures for the handling and disposal of contaminated wastes.

When used in combination, the work practices described in:
Section 5.2.3 and 5.3.6 of a PC1 and PC2 Laboratory Containment Facility;
Section 6.4.3 and 6.5.5 of a PC1 and PC2 Animal Containment Facility;
Section 7.2.4 and 7.3.5 of a PC1 and PC2 Plant Containment Facility;
Section 8.2.4 and 8.3.5 of a PC1 and PC2 Invertebrate Containment Facility;

within AS/NZS 2234.3:2010 Safety in laboratories Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment meet the requirements of implementing standard precautions.

The Department of Health and Ageing publication, Infection control guidelines for the prevention of transmission of infectious diseases in the health care setting provides detailed information on each of the steps required to implement Standard Precautions.


References:
Standards Australia
AS/NZS 2234.3:2010 Safety in laboratories Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment.

Department of Health and Ageing
Infection control guidelines for the prevention of transmission of infectious diseases in the health care setting, January 2004

Exposure to blood or other body fluids

The following guidance relates to exposures involving fluids containing visible blood, or other potentially infectious fluids (such as urine, saliva, semen, microbiological agents) or tissue.

Immediate action following exposure:

  • Wash the exposure site with soap and water;
  • If eyes are contaminated then rinse them, while they are open, gently but thoroughly with water or normal saline;
  • If blood or body fluids get in the mouth, spit them out and then rinse the mouth with water several times;
  • If clothing is contaminated remove clothing;
  • Inform an appropriate person to ensure that assistance can be provided;
  • If the exposure involves a needlestick injury or exposure (such as splashes) to the eye or mouth proceed without delay to the University Health Service or nearest large hospital casualty department for risk assessment and treatment. N.B. Where prophylaxis is required it must be commenced as soon as possible following exposure, preferably within 1-2 hours.

Subsequent action following exposure:

  • Decontaminate the area with sodium hypochlorite. An equal volume of 5000-10000 p.p.m. (0.5-1%) available chlorine is required for the inactivation of HIV and hepatitis viruses in blood or serum. The hypochlorite must be freshly prepared as the effective strength of chorine solutions decreases on storage.
    Report the incident using the online incident reporting system via myHRonline (to be reported within 24hours of the incident occurring).
  • In the case of needlestick injuries or exposures to the eye or mouth every effort should be made to ascertain the HIV, HBV and HCV status of the source.
  • Refer to NSW Health Policy Directive PD2005_311: HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C - Management of Health Care Workers Potentially Exposed for further detailed information.


References
NSW Health Policy Directive PD2005_311: HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C - Management of Health Care Workers Potentially Exposed

Handling and disposal of sharps

Sharps can be defined as items which have sharp points or cutting edges capable of causing injury to, or piercing human skin, when handled. Hypodermic needles, pasteur pipettes, scalpel blades, plastic items with torn or serrated edges and broken glass all fit this definition.

All sharps have the potential to cause injury through cuts or puncture wounds. In addition, many sharps are contaminated with blood or body fluids, microbiological agents, toxic chemicals or radioactive substances, posing a risk of infection or illness if they penetrate the skin. It is therefore essential to follow safe procedures when using and disposing of sharps in order to protect staff and students from sharps injuries.

Sharps are a major cause of incidents involving potential exposure to bloodborne diseases. When handling blood and bodily fluids the use of sharps should be eliminated or minimised. Where possible, alternatives should be considered including needleless intravenous systems, use of blunt needles for drawing up of solutions from ampoules, or retractable needle and syringe systems. Sharps should not be handled if feeling fatigued (e.g. late in the day).

Sharp instruments must not be passed by hand between people. If transfer is required, specific puncture-resistant sharps trays should be used for the transfer of all sharp items.

Disposal of Sharps
To prevent needlestick injury, needles must not be re-sheathed. Needles must not be bent or broken by hand. Sharps must be placed into a sharps container as soon as possible after use. The person who has used the sharp is responsible for its immediate safe disposal following its use. This must be at the point of use. The sharps container should be within arm’s length.

Sharps containers need to be rigid, impervious containers which are discarded when full. Sharps containers should conform to Australian Standard AS 40311 (or to AS/NZS 42612 if local arrangements have been made for reprocessing in accordance with AS/NZS 44783).

When full, sharps containers holding contaminated sharps SHALL NOT be placed into the general rubbish stream. They are to be included in the University hazardous waste collection service provided by OHSIM. Collection of full sharps containers and other hazardous waste is arranged through the departmental waste contact person. For further information, refer to the University's Hazardous Waste Disposal Guidelines.

References
Standards Australia
AS4031-1992 Non-reusable containers for the collection of sharp medical items used in health care areas
AS/NZS 4261:1994 Reusable containers for the collection of sharp items used in human and animal medical applications
AS/NZS 4478:1997 Guide to the reprocessing of reusable containers for the collection of sharp items used in human and animal clinical/medical applications
Department of Health and Ageing, Infection control guidelines for the prevention of transmission of infectious diseases in the health care setting, January 2004

Vaccinations

The NSW Health Policy Directive for Occupational Assessment, Screeing & Vaccination Against Specified Infectious Diseases PD2011_005 describes the requirements for employers, staff and other clinical personnel in relation to occupational assessment, screening and assessment against specified infectious diseases.

Vaccinations are required for all staff/students who have contact with clients and those working in laboratories and departments of forensic medicine/morgues who may come in contact with blood, body substances or infectious materials.

In addition to the vaccinations outlined in The NSW Health Policy Directive for Occupational Assessment, Screening & Vaccination Against Specified Infectious Diseases PD2011_005, those working with certain Risk Group 2 and Risk Group 3 microorganisms may require additional vaccinations. AS/NZS 2234.3:2010 Safety in laboratories Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment provides details of vaccinations required for those handling particular microorganisms. Refer to the footnotes of the relevant microorganism in Tables 3.1, 3.4, 3.5, 3.7.

Staff members and students are expected to maintain their own screening and vaccination records and have them available for inspection. It is the supervisor’s responsibility and duty of care to ensure that all staff and students have received the required vaccinations (and provided evidence of protection) depending on the type of work to be undertaken. Staff and students must not be permitted to undertake work with clients or to perform tasks that may involve contact with blood, body substances or infectious materials until they have provided appropriate vaccination records.


References
AS/NZS 2234.3:2010 Safety in laboratories Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment
The NSW Health Policy Directive for Occupational Assessment, Screening & Vaccination Against Specified Infectious Diseases PD2011_005