A quick guide to universal safety precautions

Universal precautions are the safety guidelines configured to protect health care workers  from the exposure to any disease spread by any infectious agent, blood , blood born infections, secretions and other body fluids.

It is very important to take all precautionary measures in health care practice, as millions of health care workers experience percutaneous exposure to blood brone viruses each year.

But , in order to ensure safety, following basic universal safety precautions like hand washing, respiratory hygiene is applicable to all.

As it will protect both HCW or doctor & patient.

What are the human materials considered infectious?

Blood, CSF , Synovial fluid , semen, vaginal secretions and  body fluids.

What are the human materials less infections unless contaminated?

Nasal secretions ,sputum, sweat, tears, saliva.

Standard safety precautions are the minimum level of safety precautions used by any HCW while providing patient care.

Some of the standard precautions are:

1. Institutional safety climate : 

Support a safety climate at health care setting which helps to reduce the risk of infection among  staff, healthcare workers, patients and visitors . promotion of safety climate is a base to prevent transmission.

2. Include good hygiene :

Wash hands & exposed skin after any exposure, do not eat, drink , smoke, handle contact lenses or apply cosmetics in the areas that could be infectious or an infectious environment. Wash eyes ,mouth and nose at the earliest when in contact with any blood injury or other infectious fluids.

3. Hand hygiene :

  • Hand cleaning
  • Using gloves

Hand hygiene is the key factor. As there is a well saying by Willam osler “soap, water & common sense are still be best antiseptics” so in order to prevent indirect or direct transmission of microorganisms it is important to promote and ensure good hand hygiene.  Washing hands for 20- 40 seconds with soap works best. Now how to wash hands in a proper way:- Wet hands and apply soap- Right palm over left and left over right- Interlace palm to palm, finger to finger and of the back side of palm- Rotationally rub right and left thumbs- Rub between fingers and on the back side also- Make sure all areas of hands and fingers are rubbed with soap- Now turn on the tap, clean your hands with water- Dry them with a clean tissue or napkin , hand dryer,etc- Once hands are dry, they are safe.

Hand washing should be performed before and after touching patient, wounds, when working in hospital, ICU, or when hands are visibly dirty, after removing gloves, before and after handling medical equipment etc.

You can also use an alcohol based sanitizer for cleaning hands

4. Use of PEP :

Use of personal protective equipments like gloves, mask, goggles or eye wear, face shields ,cap, gown, footwear, etc is important so that any body fluids or secretions doesn’t comes in contact with skin. Ensure that gloves and gown are clean. Use of impervious gown will ensure good safety.

use of gloves :

  • Wear before touching non-intact skin, blood, secretions, body fluids, surgical equipments etc
  • Change between tasks & use separate for separate patient & procedure performed
  • Remove after use, and perform hand washing

5. Needle safety :

-Needles, scalpels and other sharp instruments should be properly handled and dispose.

Never recap needles inorder to avoid needle stick injury.

Ensure there is availability of bleach solution to discard all used syringes and needles.

Prevention of needle stick injuries is important to prevent health hazards like AIDS or HIV,HBV,etc

-for the prevention of needle stick & injuries from other sharp equipments ,cleaning of instruments and proper disposal of needles should be taken care of.

6. Respiratory hygiene & cough etiquette : 

Cover mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing- Wash hands after coming in contact with respiratory secretions.- Maintain little distance if the person has any respiratory symptoms inorder to aavoid droplet transmission.- Use a proper medical mask before coming in contact with any diseased patient.

7. Clean and sanitize the contaminated surfaces : 

-One must Disinfect frequently used surfaces .

– ensure proper sanitization and routine cleaning practices of the environment.

8. Sterile hospital equipments / patient care equipment :

Proper care of endoscopes, sterilization of all medical or surgical equipments before and after use , metal instruments should be decontaminated properly.

(one should wear gloves while handling instruments)

Clean , decontaminate and reprocess the reusable instruments properly with appropriate sterilization practices before using it with another patient.

9. Handling of linens :

-Contaminated lines can transmit infection. It is important to decontaminate linen with autoclaving procedures or linen should be soaked in bleach solution for atleast 30 minutes.

-Avoid transfer of pathogens and prevent skin or mucous membrane exposure while handling contaminated linen.

10. Place in a container or dustbin lined with a plastic bag

11. Proper waste management : 

A proper waste management should be done for hazardous waste, non- hazardous , biomedical waste, laboratory waste , liquid waste, solid waste and gaseous waste by keeping them in different environment. Checking whether it is biodegradable or non-biodegradable. Using separate colored containers for waste management. Poor waste handling can lead to environmental pollution , breeding of diseased vectors, which will further lead to diseases. So discard every single waste item properly.

12. Vaccination :

Getting vaccinated by hepatitis B vaccine, HBV vaccination , etc also comes under the precautionary measure to prevent infection.


  • WHO – www.who.int/csr (World health organization)
  • Wikipedia

Was it worth reading? Let us know.