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Bloodborne Pathogens

As part of the effort to provide a safe working environment, EHS has implemented the Bloodborne Pathogens Program for all those who may risk such exposure as part of their work or research. Although participation in the program is voluntary, participation including Hepatitis B immunization is highly recommeded to all staff and students who routinely handle or will have exposure to human blood or other potentially infectious materials. The Occupational Health Program Form for Bloodborne Pathogens can be found here.

Anyone working with bloodborne pathogens must take the Introduction to Biosafety Course.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Program is intended to respect the guidelines issued by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (MSSS), The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety as well as the medical surveillance requirements of the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act (HPTA) regarding work with bloodborne pathogens.

For more information please see the Exposure Control Plan and in the event of an exposure, please see Reporting an Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogen.


What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne Pathogens are pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Other potentially infectious materials may include:

  • Laboratory specimen containing concentrated amounts of HBV, HCV or HIV.
  • Bodily fluids including: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva or any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between body fluids. 
  • Body tissues, non-intact skin or mucous membranes.

Exposure is considered significant if it involves a risk of transmission of infection due to contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Types of exposure presenting a risk of transmission are:

  • Parenteral exposure - the pathogen is introduced directly into the body through a break in the skin (existing cuts, sores, abrasions, dermatitis, sunburn or blisters), by needlestick, or through a cut with a contaminated object.
  • Mucous membrane exposure - exposure through a mucous membrane in the eye, nose or mouth from a splash or spray of contaminated material.

For more information on bloodborne pathogens, please view the Bloodborne Pathogens Safety Awareness Presentation

Hepatitis B Immunization

In 2003 the Biohazards Committee (now under the jurisdiction of the University Laboratory Safety Committee) approved a recommendation that all McGill staff and students working with human bloods and body fluids should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Student Health Services provides the vaccine at no charge to full-time students working on research projects that require the handling of human blood and blood products. This service is provided on both campuses by appointment only. Questions regarding specific details or appointments should be directed to Student Health Services at 514-398-2558.

Employees who handle human bloods, body fluids and unfixed tissues should contact the Occupational Health Program Administrator at 514-398-4766 to book an appointment with the Occupational Health Nurse to receive the vaccine. Hepatitis B immunization is highly recommended to all staff and students who routinely handle or will have exposure to human blood or other potentially infectious materials.