Police Officers at Risk for Exposures to Bloodborne Pathogens

Following a request to NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation Program from employer representatives at the risk management office in a city in Ohio concerning needlestick injuries and other potential exposures to bloodborne pathogens among police officers in that city, the agency found:

  • The city’s bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan was comprehensive, but the police department had not yet adopted the plan;
  • Thirteen needlestick injuries were reported across a 6-year period in a force of about 1,000 officers;
  • Nine of 11 source persons tested were found to have hepatitis C. None were found to have hepatitis B or HIV;
  • Most needlestick injuries occurred during pat-down searches of a suspect and during searches of a suspect’s property or vehicle; and
  • Thirty-seven additional potential bloodborne pathogens exposure incidents were reported, involving mostly spitting incidents, human bites, and contact with blood other than from needlesticks.

The police department is not required to implement the requirements of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard because Ohio does not operate a state OSHA plan; the standard only covers private industry employees and public employees in states operating OSHA-approved state plans.

However, NIOSH recommends voluntary compliance with OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard to improve the health and safety of the city’s police officers.

Those who conduct job tasks in laboratory areas, or conduct job tasks with small quantities (<100L) of hazardous materials would require needle sharps training which is offered by Safety Unlimited, Inc, SUN News parent company.