Health & Safety

Information Bulletins · Universal Precautions



Universal Precautions


Many of our members risk contact with blood or other body fluids in their workplace. Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions are widely accepted in workplaces across North America as crucial measures to protect workers from exposure to disease-causing biological agents. These agents include feces, blood, saliva, mucous, urine, semen, vaginal fluids and any other body fluid containing blood. Infection can occur when these agents come into contact with broken skin or contact with mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. It is important to consider all biological wastes as infectious.

All members should follow these universal precautions at all times.

5 Steps of Universal Precautions

  1. Education
  2. Hand washing
  3. Use of protective barriers (Personal Protective Equipment (PPE))
  4. Cleaning of contaminated surfaces
  5. Safe handling/disposal of contaminated material

1. Education

  • The employer must provide training to protect the health and safety of the worker and provide for the safe handling and disposal of biological agents. [OHSAct s. 25 (2)(a), (d), and (h)] (see also Information Bulletin, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis)
  • Hygienic (washroom) facilities with water, soap and disposable towels or a hot air hand dryer must be provided at all our worksites.
  • Protective surgical gloves (latex or vinyl) must be provided by the employer for workers who may be exposed to biological agents (i.e. body fluids from other people or from animals).

2. Hand Washing

  • Frequent hand washing is one effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in a workplace.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after contact with any body fluid or a contaminated surface.
  • Wet, soap and lather hands for at least ten seconds.
  • Wash and scrub under fingernails and cuticles with a small brush.
  • Rinse hands thoroughly and dry. (see also Information Bulletin, Antibacterial Products)

3. Protective Barriers

Always wear a protective barrier (surgical gloves) when in contact with blood, body fluids or feces.

  • The OHSAct requires the employer to provide and maintain personal protective equipment in good condition, to require their use, and to train the worker on their use. [OHSAct s. 25 (1)(b), (d) and (2)(a), (h)]
  • Protective barriers reduce your risk of exposure to potentially infectious material through contact with broken skin or mucous membranes.


  • Surgical quality latex or vinyl gloves must be provided by the employer for all contact with blood, body fluids and feces.
  • Gloves are also necessary for disinfecting contaminated surfaces and disposing of used materials and biological waste.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after removing gloves.
  • Change gloves after each task or exposure and dispose as contaminated waste.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Protective eye glasses and a mask must be provided and used where blood, body fluids or feces are likely to splash on the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Gowns, lab coats or aprons must be provided and worn where clothing is likely to be soiled.

Resuscitation Devices

  • To minimize your exposure during emergency mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, mouthpieces or other resuscitation devices should be provided.
  • Resuscitation devices should be a disposable type and available in every first aid kit.

4. Cleaning and disinfecting of contaminated areas

  • Wear gloves and use disposable towels or other means of cleaning that will ensure against direct contact with blood, body fluids or feces.
  • Decontaminate the area with an approved germicide or 1:100 solution of household bleach.
  • All used equipment must be thoroughly washed and disinfected.

5. Safe handling/disposal of contaminated material

  • Special precautions must be observed when disposing of biological waste and materials contaminated with biological waste. Training must be provided by the employer. [OHSAct s.25 (2)(a), (d), and (h)]
  • The employer must have a written Disposal of Contaminated Waste Procedure for the safe disposal of contaminated waste which should include the following:
    • Dispose of biological waste in a puncture-resistant container lined with a leak-proof plastic bag. Post a biological waste symbol on the container.
    • Consider all biological waste as infectious.
    • Wear puncture-resistant gloves and handle all contaminated wastes carefully to prevent body contact.
    • Hold only the outside of the container when emptying it. Never reach into the container.
    • Do not load the container beyond its capacity or compact the contents. Compaction may lead to additional contamination of the work area.
    • Never mix biological waste with regular trash.
    • Any object that could cut or puncture the skin such as needles or broken glass may carry infectious material and should be handled with caution. Dispose of 'sharps' in unbreakable, non-pierceable containers that have a lid. Never place 'sharps' in the regular trash.

The chart in Information Bulletin, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, indicates when and why Universal Precautions are essential.

Universal Precautions are essential to protect members from these diseases.

Additional References

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Health and Safety / Workplace Safety and Insurance Act Committee's H/S Information Bulletins
  • HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis
  • Antibacterial Products

Further Information

Contact your local Public Health Department, Ministry of Labour Office, or the Health and Safety / Workplace Safety and Insurance Act Committee through OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office, 49 Mobile Drive, Toronto, Ontario Tel.:  416-751-8300.