Blood Borne Pathogens Create Workplace Risks

Blood borne pathogens are nasty business. These microorganisms, which are present in human blood, cause diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, MERSA and meningitis. The risk is so serious that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created the Blood Borne Pathogen Act of 1991 to limit exposure of healthcare workers to blood and bodily fluids that could cause disease. Employers must implement an Exposure Control Plan that makes precautions mandatory and treats all blood and bodily fluids as infectious, except for sweat. In addition, the use of personal protection equipment (PPE), such as gowns, gloves, masks, goggles, and resuscitation bags, is mandatory.

Workplace Pathogens

Legal Presumptions for Public Safety Officers

Police officers, firefighters, and other public safety officers are entitled by law to a "presumption" of injury caused by such illnesses under Labor Code Section 3212.8. A legal "presumption" under the law can be of great importance in proving such a disease is industrially related.  The burden of proof for such injuries is eased. 

A recent workers' compensation case interpreting Labor Code Section 3212.8 clarifies and expands the types of injuries included in the category of "blood borne diseases."  Though this presumption only applies to certain employees, this case reminds us of the danger of blood borne industrial injuries for many workers.  In 2011, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner introduced Assembly Bill 375, which would have included medical workers under the presumption law; it was voted down in the state Senate.

Proving an Industrial Component for Blood Borne Diseases

However, even without a presumption, it is often possible, by obtaining the necessary evidence, to prove industrial injury for these diseases.  Exposure to this risk is heightened in professions such as prison workers, nurses and other healthcare workers, laundry workers, sanitation workers and custodians.   

The attorneys at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK) have been very successful in litigating and successfully resolving such cases. We have more than three decades of experience representing a wide range of injured workers including workers with presumptions, healthcare workers and others hurt on the job. If you would like to speak with a GEK attorney about your legal options please call 213-739-7000 of click here.

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