Routine practices are a set of infection control strategies and standards designed to protect workers from exposure to potential sources of infectious diseases. Routine practices are based on the premise that all blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, mucous membranes, non-intact skin or soiled items are potentially infectious. These practices, while mainly adopted by healthcare providers, apply to all professions in which workers may become exposed to infectious microorganisms through contact with blood and body fluids. Examples of these professions include police officers, trauma/crime scene clean-up crew, zookeepers, laboratory technicians, and embalmers.
Universal precautions are a set of strategies developed to prevent of transmission of blood borne pathogens. The focus of universal precautions is on blood and selected body fluids such as cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid, and aminotic fluid. Body secretions such as urine, vomitus, feces, or sputum are not controlled under universal precautions, and are instead usually covered under a set of guidelines called body substance isolation.
Routine practices are a combination of universal precautions and body substance isolation. Routine practices have a much bigger scope and aim to protect against the transmission of all microorganisms through contact with all body fluids, excretions, mucous membranes, non-intact skin and soiled items in addition to precautions for blood.
Standard precautions is a term widely adopted in the United States and convey the same set of principles as routine practices.
There are 5 major components to routine practices. They are risk assessment, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, environmental and administrative controls.
Before any task is performed, conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the risk of disease transmission. The risk assessment should take into account the following:
Appropriate strategies such as hand hygiene, waste management, and the use of personal protective equipment are then selected to reduce the risk of exposure and disease transmission.
The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care suggest the following questions for healthcare providers to ask while assessing the risk:
1. What task am I going to perform?
2. What is the risk of exposure to:
3. How competent/experienced am I in performing this task?
4. Will the patient be cooperative while I perform the task?
Hand hygiene is the act of removing or destroying microorganisms on the hands while maintaining good hand integrity (keeping the skin healthy). Hand hygiene can be performed with an alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water. You may refer to our OSH Answers document on hand washing for more information.
PPE includes gloves, gowns, lab coats, shoe covers, goggles, glasses with side shields, masks, and resuscitation bags. PPE is particularly needed when disease transmission may occur through touching, spraying, aerosolization, or splashing of blood, bodily fluids, mucous membranes, non-intact skin, body tissues, and contaminated equipment and surfaces. PPE can help create a barrier between the exposed worker and the source of microorganisms.
Gloves are for single-patient and single-procedure use only. Only disposable gloves should be used in the prevention of disease transmission. Gloves must be removed and replaced when they become heavily soiled and when working between patients and between dirty and clean tasks. Gloves should always be removed using a glove-to-glove or skin-to-skin technique which will prevent contaminating the hands.
The use of gloves does not replace the need for hand hygiene. Gloves often create a moist environment that facilitates the growth of microorganisms. Hands should be properly washed before the gloves are put on and after the gloves are removed. Hand hygiene is also needed before and after the replacement of gloves during a procedure or in between tasks.
Gowns can be either reusable or disposable. These steps of gown donning and removal should be followed:
Face protection can provide an effective barrier to protect a worker’s eyes, nose or mouth from coming into contact with sprays or aerosolized body fluids. There are different types and combinations of face protection, such as a mask with safety glasses, a fall face shield, or a mask with an attached visor.
The proper steps when removing PPE are critical to prevent contamination of the worker with soiled PPE. The removal of PPE should be performed in the following order:
Environmental control refers to controlling and minimizing the level of microorganisms in the environment. Environmental control measures include:
Administrative controls include employee training, supervisory competency, immunization, cough etiquette, workplace policies and procedures that are strictly enforced, and sufficient staffing. Administrative controls are critical to ensure that the principles of routine practices are effectively and properly executed in the workplace.
In addition to routine practices, some workplaces apply additional precautions to prevent and control specific infectious agents. The methods of additional precautions are based on the mode of transmission -- contact, droplet, and airborne. Some microorganisms that require additional precautions include Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Vanomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) (included in drug-resistant organisms), Clostridium Difficile (C. difficile), Anthrax, Malaria, and West Nile virus.
Additional precautions include following routine practices, plus:
Occupational health and safety is regulated in Canada in each of the fourteen jurisdictions (provincial, territorial, and federal). Some jurisdictions may have also developed specific modifications of infection control guidelines. For more information on these, you may wish to contact the departments responsible for occupational health and safety and public health in your province.
Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee (PIDAC) Knowledge products - Best practice documents
From: Public Health Ontario
Guideline for Routine Practices and Additional Precautions
From: Department of Health & Community Services, Disease Control Division, Newfoundland and Labrador
Routine Practices to Reduce the Risk of Infectious Diseases
From: College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
(*We have mentioned these organizations as a means of providing a potentially useful referral. You should contact the organization(s) directly for more information about their services. Please note that mention of these organizations does not represent a recommendation or endorsement by CCOHS of these organizations over others of which you may be aware.)
Document last updated on May 19, 2011