Bio-hazards, Occupational Diseases and Hepatitis B

An occupational disease is a disease caused by exposure to a workplace hazardous substance.

This includes diseases and infections that may be transmitted by exposure to contaminated blood or bodily fluids:

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping cough
  • Influenza 

Managers must determine if employees are at risk of exposure to an infectious disease. To identify a risk of exposure, read the Guide to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in the Workplace (PDF, 6.3MB). If there is a risk of exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, an exposure control plan must be developed. An exposure control plan contains the following information:

  • Summary of the job duties that may expose employees to a risk
  • Who is at risk, what the disease or infection may be
  • How the disease may be transmitted
  • What the risk level is
  • The control measures that will protect staff

The guide details how to complete an exposure control plan step by step. Employees are a good source of information about possible exposures.

Once the exposure control plan is complete, educate and train employees at risk and control measures for infectious disease. Staff must report any possible exposures, and the plan must be reviewed at least annually or any time there is a change is working conditions that may influence the exposure or introduce new exposures.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Infections only occur if the virus is able to enter the blood stream and reach the liver. Hepatitis B is not transmitted by casual contact. For example, hospital employees who have no contact with blood, blood products or blood-contaminated fluids are at no greater risk than the general public.

Blood is the major source of the hepatitis B virus in the workplace. It can also be found in other tissues and body fluids, but in much lower concentrations. Direct contact with infected blood can transmit the hepatitis B virus through

  • Punctures of the skin with blood-contaminated needles, lancets, scalpels or other sharp objects
  • Splashes to skin bearing minute scratches, abrasions, burns or even minor rashes
  • Splashes to mucous membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes

Saliva of people with hepatitis B can contain the virus, but in very low concentrations compared with blood. Infected saliva can transmit the virus, so bite injuries can also spread the disease.

Vaccinations

Supervisors must determine the risk of hepatitis B. Employees with a greater risk than the general public of contracting hepatitis B will be offered a vaccination at the employer's expense.

All first aid attendants meet the criteria for immunization.

To determine the risk of hepatitis B exposure, study and complete the risk identification and risk assessment worksheets, pages 82 to 86 of the Guide to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in the Workplace (PDF, 3.7MB). A Hepatitis B Immunization Record (PDF, 46KB) is required for all designated first aid attendants to confirm the vaccination has been completed or offered, and whether the employee accepted or declined the immunization.

Here is how the hepatitis B vaccination process works:

  1. If you're at risk of exposure to hepatitis B, receive a series of three vaccinations. The attending nurse signs the Hepatitis B Immunization Record (PDF, 46KB)
  2. Upon completion of the three vaccinations, photocopy the form and provide a copy to your supervisor as well as Occupational Health and Rehabilitation. Keep a copy for your records
  3. The Hepatitis B Immunization Record is also used if you wish to refuse a vaccination
  4. You receive a lab requisition form to have your blood tested six to eight weeks after the third injection to determine if protection is established
  5. Occupational Health Programs will contact you if the vaccination series has not been successful in establishing protection
  6. Submit receipts of vaccination to your supervisor to receive reimbursement