Splash Safety in The Hospital: Avoiding Infectious Blood and Body Fluids
Healthcare workers are exposed to a wide range of infectious blood and body fluids. Splash safety, while a simple concept, is often misinterpreted and misapplied by hospital employees.
In today’s healthcare environment, there is no room for error – especially when it comes to preventing exposure to potentially-deadly pathogens.
Hospital employees must be aware of the principles and practices of splash safety – and never sacrifice personal protection to serve and/or please patients or other staff. Understanding the dangers, knowing how splashes can occur, and understanding proper procedures will prevent injuries and save lives.

Understanding Splash Safety
Splash Safety is a term used to describe when blood or body fluids come in contact with a person’s eyes, mouth, nose, or other mucous membranes.
When it comes to hospital safety, there are few things that stand out more than the importance of blood-borne pathogen prevention. Nurses must be aware of the danger of infectious blood and body fluids and know what to do to prevent them from spreading.
Splash Safety: How Infectious Blood and Body Fluids Cause Disease
Splashing blood and body fluids can enter the body through various openings:

  • The eye – infections may spread when blood splashes to a healthcare worker’s eye during a surgical procedure.
  • The mouth – pathogens may also spread when body fluids splash to a worker’s mouth.
  • The nose – A healthcare worker may be infected with blood splashes to the nose or if they touch their noses while manipulating medical equipment.
  • Any open wounds– infections can also enter a worker’s body through open wounds in their hands or neck.

Lastly, any uncleaned blood splashes and spills can cause infection if workers get in contact with them.
Why are Blood and Body Fluids Considered Infectious?
Blood and body fluids have the potential to carry infectious diseases, causing illnesses like hepatitis and HIV.
Blood is also a body fluid and is very important for our health. It carries oxygen, nutrients and other substances to all of our organs and tissues throughout our bodies.
If there are any infectious organisms in a patient’s bloodstream, they can be transmitted to workers during medical care.

Blood and Body fluids that could be infectious.

Viruses that can infect human beings can also be transmitted via contact with infectious blood and body fluids.

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can enter our bodies through these openings in our skin when we get cuts, scratches, or scrapes on our bodies because these microorganisms can easily pass through the openings in our skin.

How Common are Hospital Acquired Infections
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a major problem. They’re the most common cause of death in hospitals and cost U.S. facilities more than $30 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The most common HAIs are infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE).
HAIs are also associated with increased length of hospital stay, increased medical costs and increased number of days an individual must be cared for upon discharge from a facility.
These infectious blood and body fluids can spread from patient to patient or by direct contact with infected patient body fluids, equipment or the environment. In addition, one can spread infections to others outside the hospital through improper hygiene or preparing food after visiting a loved one staying in the hospital.
HAIs are responsible for an estimated 722,000 infections every year and result in 99,000 deaths annually. According to the CDC, healthcare-associated infections were linked to nearly 20% of all hospital stays in 2011 and accounted for $10.4 billion in excess costs.
Why Nurses must Prioritize Splash Safety All the Time
Infectious blood and body fluids transmit pathogens via direct or indirect contact with an infected person’s fluids. The most common infectious agents include hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Splashing blood and body fluids can enter the mouth through various openings: the eye, the mouth, and the nose.
Bloodborne pathogens are a serious threat to both you and the people you come in contact with. In fact, OSHA states that “healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable to occupational exposures to bloodborne pathogens because of their potential for exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).”
The most common risks include potentially contracting hepatitis B, C, or HIV as well as developing an infection through needlestick injuries.
For this reason, it is imperative that nurses take every precaution when doing their job. Failure to do so can lead to disciplinary action, including termination of employment.
Key Splash Safety Considerations
Nurses are constantly exposed to bloodborne pathogens when providing care. Blood splashes can occur during patient assessments, treatments, and even during the administration of medications.
Splash safety is a big concern in the nursing profession, which is why it is important for nurses to be aware of how they can protect themselves from accidental blood exposure.
The following are some tips that nurses can follow to avoid being exposed to bloodborne pathogens:
1. Wear Protective Clothing
Always wear protective eyewear or face shields when performing invasive procedures, or when there is potential for splash events.
While wearing protective clothing is not necessary during simple treatments and assessments, it is recommended that you wear these accessories when dealing with patients who are suffering from infections or have known bloodborne pathogens in their system.
2. Wear gloves
During treatment or administration of medication, wearing gloves is one of the best ways for a nurse to prevent themselves from coming into contact with harmful substances. Gloves come in different types, so it is important for the nurse to choose one that fits well and will not cause them any discomfort when worn.
3. Hands should be washed thoroughly
After treating or being exposed to a patient who has a known infection, hands should be washed thoroughly using soap and water. Hands should also be washed immediately after treating a patient who has an open wound or cut.
Hand hygiene is critical to infection control, especially before eating, drinking, and/or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
4. Follow universal precautions
These universal precautions include everything from washing hands before treating patients to avoiding unnecessary contact with their body fluids and belongings. This can help reduce the risk of contracting pathogens from infectious blood and body fluids during treatment.
For example, washing hands is the best way to reduce your risk of contracting bloodborne diseases by around 70–80 percent.

doctors protecting themselves from infectious blood and body fluids

This risk can be cut even further with the use of gloves, but this only reduces the chance of disease transmission from 10 percent down to around one percent. This is why handwashing (along with the use of nitrile gloves) is an important aspect of splash safety at the workplace.
5. Learn how to use personal protective equipment correctly
It’s important to know how to correctly put on and remove all necessary equipment so it doesn’t interfere with the medical procedure being performed
Why Nurses Do Not Wear Splash Safety PPE at Work
Why don’t nurses wear splash protection in the workplace?

  • Most nurses choose not to wear splash protection because they feel that it hinders them from doing their work. They feel that wearing this kind of safety equipment will slow them down when attending to patients.
  • Others believe that since they are working on specific patient body parts (like arms and legs), gloves alone will suffice, ignoring face protection.

Splash safety is especially critical for nurses who deal with blood and bodily fluids on a regular basis. If procedures are not followed properly, nurses can get exposed to a number of serious diseases like Hepatitis or HIV.

Though it’s important for nurses to protect themselves at all times, employers must ensure the protection method or device used does not interfere with their ability to perform their job.

Inform your employer of all splash-related infections or contact with blood to prevent further transmission and protect the health of other staff.
Why You Should Report all Splash-related Infections
Telling your employer about any potentially infectious blood and body fluids encountered at work is an important part of managing the risk of infection.

If you think you might have been exposed to a blood-borne virus after being splashed with infected blood or body fluids such as urine or feces, or if you have had contact with an infected person’s blood in a work situation, tell your employer.

You should also consider telling them if you are concerned that you may have come into contact with infected blood at work because of:

  • A needle stick injury (being pricked by a needle)
  • A splash injury (blood or other body fluids getting onto your skin)
  • Other types of exposure to infected blood, such as having unprotected sex (without a condom) with someone who has hepatitis B

Contacting your employer is the first step towards protecting yourself and others from infection. Your employer will then need to decide what action to take.
Final Words on Infectious Blood and Body Fluids
With a better understanding of the basic biohazard standards, you can make sound decisions about your workplace and what safety equipment is appropriate for you. Most importantly, you’ll be able to take responsibility for yourself and your co-workers so that you all have the safest environment possible.

More and more, hospital employees are realizing that the risks from blood-borne pathogens are too great to ignore. Always wear PPE and follow other safety procedures in your workplace to reduce the chances of contracting an infection.