Standard vs. Universal Precautions

Workplace health and safety is the cornerstone of employment within medical settings. Employers and employees within healthcare facilities know that there are certain precautions set in place for their protection. These common precautions are implemented to best control infection exposure and the spread of diseases.

This concept of general precautions is a basic level safety measure that is used in the care of all patients within a facility at all times. However, within the healthcare industry, there are two different terms for these precautions that can be easily misunderstood. Let’s examine the distinction between standard vs. universal precautions.

Universal Precautions

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, first mandated the use of universal precautions in the early ‘90s. There are two main reasons as to why these precautions were implemented: to protect patients and to protect medical staff members themselves. Universal precautions were particularly made to protect against blood and other bloody bodily fluids that could be infectious. Hence, they are precautions against bloodborne pathogens. Proper hand hygiene is one such precaution.

Standard Precautions: The CDC

Standard vs. universal precautions are diverse because of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the years, the CDC recognized that the majority of high-risk infectious diseases were not only transmitted through blood, but through airborne transmission, too. The CDC expanded the concept of universal precautions by incorporating major safeguard features of the past into a new set of safety measures.

These expanded safety measures for infection control are labeled with the term standard precautions. Regardless of a patient’s infection status, they must be used in the care of all patients to protect staff from the elements of blood, any bodily fluids, and secretions and exertions such as saliva. Wearing proper PPE is one such precaution.

OSHA’S Regulated Standards

Universal and standard precautions are considerably not interchangeable terms, but they are safety concepts that heavily overlap. In correlation to the term of universal precautions, OSHA has regulated standards such as the bloodborne pathogen standard that requires employers to implement the use of these health and safety controls for their employees. Anyone who has contact with or exposure to blood or bodily fluids is at risk and must comply with this standard’s provisions.

Here at Gamma Compliance Solutions, we provide medical employers with OSHA programs and training to support them in their pursuit of regulatory compliance and infection control standards. Our comprehensive OSHA program manual for medical facilities is reliable and user-friendly to help you provide the safest and healthiest work environment possible. If you have any questions about our products, contact us today.