Learn about the important medical term, 'universal precautions', from what exactly they are, to who even came up with the concept.

Universal precautions is one of the terms you might recall in passing from when you sat on the couch Thursday nights watching “ER”. It is one of those terms that sound good, but unless you are a professional in the medical field, you may not understand the true meaning of the term. From what exactly these universal precautions are, to who should follow them, we have the info for you here. You can even find out who created these standards and can enforce them with stiff penalties.

What are Universal Precautions?

If you have heard the term universal precautions but are unaware of what exactly that means, you are certainly not the only one. Universal precautions is the term used to describe the use of protective measures like gloves, masks and gowns. The medical field is where the large majority of these precautions are used because protect against the spread of disease through blood and other bodily fluids. The blanket term of universal precautions means that you should use whichever protective products as would be proper for the situation. This means you may need all three options or just one or two depending on how you have judged the scenario.

Who Should Follow Universal Precautions?

Medical professionals are typically the ones needing to follow universal precautions, though there are some people who should follow them that you might not expect. Think about a childcare provider who needs to bandage up a wound. This person may choose not to wear gloves to protect them from the blood or other bodily fluids, but if the adult has a cut on her hand there could be a concern. Now, if the childcare provider knows that she is healthy and that the child is as well it is simply a judgment call that is left up to her. Other professionals that should follow universal precautions include firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and other rescue workers, nurses, doctors, home health aids and other personal care providers. Even technicians who give manicures or other similar services can benefit from regularly using gloves and possibly even masks. In a traditional office setting, any employee designated to be the one providing first aid in an emergency is also expected to follow these standards.

Who Says Universal Precautions Should be Followed?

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is one of the driving forces behind universal precautions. This group handles safety issues in the workplace and sets guidelines for many different types of scenarios. If you work in a health care setting these guidelines can be subject to inspection by OSHA and your employer can be heavily fined if these guidelines are not followed. According to OSHA, the most significant concerns in exposure are HIV and Hepatitis B and C, but there are many other diseases transmitted via bodily fluids including pneumonia, staph and strep infections, salmonella, measles, chicken pox and herpes. Universal precautions are required when there are any bodily fluids present except sweat.