Universal Precautions

The term ‘universal precautions’ is usually used in the medical field and refers to a set of  procedures that can help prevent people contracting infections from body fluids.   The basic premise is to treat all body fluids as potentially infectious – this includes blood, vomit, urine, faeces etc – and recommends that people protect themselves while cleaning them up.  In the medical field, universal precautions also cover things like sterilisation of equipment and providing new materials for each patient.  Universal precautions treat everybody as the same.

It is important for people to protect themselves by following these procedures; however, it is also worth noting these procedures are used as a precaution.  For example, HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C cannot be transmitted through urine, faeces or vomit but as the fluids may contain blood that you cannot see, it is important that you use universal precautions and protect yourself.  People should follow these basic procedures in both their professional and their personal lives.  Universal precautions work both ways – they stop you from contracting an infection and also prevent you from transmitting an infection on.

Universal precautions include:

  • Washing your hands often.
  • Using protective barriers such as gloves, gowns/aprons, masks for direct contact with blood and other body fluids.
  • Safe collection and disposal of needles and sharps (sharps boxes required for this).
  • Following the correct procedures for a needlestick injury (the area should be washed out with soap and water, dispose the needle safely (in case you injure yourself again), go to A&E immediately, get assessed for PEP etc).
  • Covering all cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings.
  • Cleaning up spills of blood and other body fluids with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.  Use a separate mop for body fluid spillages and dispose carefully of all equipment (cloths etc) used to clean up the spillage.