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Get a Firm Grip On Fluid Situations

November 11, 2006
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A not-uncommon request made of the average cleaner is a cry for help with blood and other protein-based contaminants, e.g. sewage. This call must be investigated and the conditions must be weighed carefully before any action is taken. Quite often, the wisest move will be taking no action at all.

The hazards that accompany blood and body fluid cleanup are broad enough and severe enough that the federal government has addressed them with legislation. The mitigation of blood and body fluids is covered in the "Blood-Borne Pathogens Law": #29 CFR 1910.1030, addressing Occupational Exposure To Blood-Borne Pathogens, issued by OSHA in 1991 to protect workers who come in contact with potentially infectious materials in the workplace. The minimum standards required are appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), including gloves, (chemical resistant) gowns or suits, lab coats, masks, (respirators) and eye protection (goggles), all provided at the employer's expense.

Respirators assigned to a crew must be fitted individually to each crew member. Any employee who may be exposed to blood-borne pathogens or Other Potentially Infectious Material (OPIM) must be offered the Hepatitis B vaccination series at the employer's expense. There are also strict and lengthy record keeping requirements if an employee is exposed to blood, sewage and OPIM.

The actual process of recovering spilled materials, especially liquid spills, may be simplified by use of a commercially available gelling agent. The agent is applied to the liquid spill, transforming it into a semi-solid substance that may be then collected using a shovel or something similar if the spill is on a hard floor as opposed to a carpeted surface. The collected matter should then be bagged, tagged, and disposed of according to the OSHA standard.

If the spill is on a carpeted floor, rinsing with water may be the most effective approach. Using a device designed to remove water or urine from carpet as well as padding will probably speed up the process of collecting the contaminants, keeping in mind that IICRC standards require that sewage-contaminated materials be disposed of except under specific circumstances. Also, keep in mind that the temperature of your rinse solutions should be about room temperature, since higher temperatures may solidify or "set" the contaminant. More on waste-water disposal in a moment.

After excess contaminants have been removed, the application of enzymatic agents will facilitate removal of remaining contaminants and the correction of potential odor in the affected areas. Be sure to follow label directions regarding proper dilution of your selected product as well as temperature recommendations and required dwell time. After proper dwell time has elapsed it may be most efficient to rinse the affected areas with the wand from your hot-water extraction machine.

If you are using a portable unit, the safest manner to dispose of the recovered waste is right down the sanitary sewer in the facility where work is being performed. If you are using a truck-mounted system, the place for disposal is still in the sanitary sewage system but getting it into the drain may be more of a challenge. This is the situation in which an auto pump-out is very beneficial, as you merely direct the outlet hose of your pumper down the sanitary sewage pipe.

A final application of a topical deodorant spray should keep the area sweet swelling while drying is accomplished. Until next month, see ya!

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