CAW National Council 4000
Occupational Health and Safety

Universal Precautions for Infection Control

What are universal precautions?

Universal precautions are infection control guidelines designed to protect workers from exposure to diseases spread by blood and
certain body fluids.

Health Canada and U.S. health institutions have developed the strategy of "Universal Precautions" to prevent contact with patient
blood and body fluids. Universal precautions stress that all patients should be assumed to be infectious for blood-borne diseases
such as AIDS and hepatitis B.

Should universal precautions be applied to all workplaces?

In the workplace, universal precautions should be followed when workers are exposed to blood and certain other body fluids,

  • Semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • synovial fluid
  • cerebrospinal fluid

  • pleural fluid
  • peritoneal fluid
  • pericardial fluid
  • amniotic fluid
Universal precautions do not apply to:
  • Feces
  • nasal secretions
  • sputum
  • sweat
  • tears
  • urine
  • vomitus
  • saliva (except in the dental setting, where saliva is likely to
    be contaminated with blood)

Universal precautions should be applied to all body fluids when it is difficult to identify the specific body fluid or when body fluids are
visibly contaminated with blood. Health care workers in hospitals and ambulance attendants should follow body substance
precautions, which treat all body fluids as infective agents.

How can workers prevent exposure to blood and body fluids?

Barriers are used for protection against occupational exposure to blood and certain body fluids.

These barriers consist of:

√         Personal protective equipment (PPE)
√         Engineering controls
√         Work practice controls

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - PPE includes gloves, lab coats, gowns, shoe covers, goggles, glasses with side shields,
masks, aprons, puncture resistant gloves for persons handling and cleaning sharp instruments or laundry which could contain a
needle and resuscitation bags. The purpose of PPE is to prevent blood and body fluids from reaching the workers' skin, mucous
membranes, or personal clothing. It must create an effective barrier between the exposed worker and any blood or other body

Engineering Controls - Engineering controls refer to methods of isolating or removing hazards from the workplace. Examples of
engineering controls include: sharps disposal containers, laser scalpels, anti-bacterial hand solution dispensers, needleless IV
systems and ventilation including the use of ventilated biological cabinets (laboratory fume hoods).

Work Practice Controls - It refers to practical techniques that reduce the likelihood of exposure by changing the way a task is
performed. Examples of activities requiring specific attention to work practice controls include: hand washing, handling of used
needles and other sharps and contaminated reusable sharps, collecting and transporting fluids and tissues according to approved
safe practices.

Remember, if you have a blood or body fluid exposure, report to first aid, seek medical attention and complete an incident

Bargaining Collective Agreement Language

We have negotiated language in some of our CAW agreements with employers in the health care industry to require the employer
to ensure direct care employees are made aware of patients or residents with serious communicable diseases within the extent
possible under federal and provincial privacy legislation. The employer must be obliged to advise, educate and train employees of
procedures and precautions for dealing with serious communicable diseases. Direct care workers must in turn respect and maintain
patient confidentiality.

Information in this fact sheet comes from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and Health Canada.

Source:  CAW Health, Safety & Environment Department