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HIV/AIDS Precautions - Embalming and Morgues - Procedures

What are some safe practices to follow when embalming?

  • Take extreme care to prevent cuts, lacerations and splashing of contaminated blood or body fluids.
  • Wear two pairs of intact disposable gloves. Remove punctured, torn or leaking gloves. Wash hands thoroughly. Put on two new pairs of gloves.
  • Wear safety glasses or goggles, or a face shield (with safety glasses or goggles) when there is a chance of fluids splashing.
  • Carefully transfer body to table. Avoid putting undue pressure on abdomen and thorax. Slowly unwrap body. Carefully put body bag in disposal bin.
  • Disinfect body with medical grade disinfectant. Wash with a germicidal soap and rinse thoroughly. Keep water pressure low to avoid splashing.
  • Pack and cover open sores or lesions. Pack orifices with cotton soaked in sodium hypochlorite solution.
  • Use disposable shaving equipment.
  • Cover face with towel soaked in disinfectant if using injector gun.
  • Cover rib ends with towel if the body was autopsied. Remove viscera bag and put into second plastic bag for disposal.
  • Use electric aspirator to aspirate body fluids. Cover draining port to avoid flashback.
  • Treat blood, body fluids and aspirated contents with a medical grade disinfectant for 30 minutes before flushing directly into sewer.
  • Saturate immediately any spills of blood or body fluid with medical grade disinfectant. Wipe clean with disposable absorbent material such as paper towels.
  • Wash body in medical grade disinfectant, rinse and towel dry. Use disposable absorbent material to dry body.
  • Wrap body in plastic or plastic coveralls before dressing.
  • Discard rubber or wooden-handled instruments used to apply cosmetics. Discard unused cosmetics.
  • Leave embalming area immediately should you receive a cut or needle puncture. Encourage wound to bleed freely. Wash with soap and water. Treat with fresh disinfectant. Bandage. Get medical help immediately.
  • Wash eyes and skin immediately with running water should they be splashed with blood or body fluids. Seek medical advice.
  • Spit out immediately blood or body fluids splashed in the mouth. Rinse mouth with water. Seek medical advice.
  • Wash hands with a germicide after completing restoration procedures, after removing protective clothing and gloves, and before leaving prep room.
  • Report immediately suspect fluid exposure, or a needlestick or sharp injury to a designated person or health care professional.

Please also see the OSH Answers document HIV/AIDS in the Workplace for more information.

What are some qualities of appropriate disinfectants?

  • It is active, not outdated or expired.
  • It will not corrode or stain instruments.
  • It needs to be broad spectrum which means it is able to kill bacteria, fungi, viruses and microbes.
  • It does not bleach or stain the skin.
  • It is not irritating to the embalmer's skin or respiratory tract.
  • It is not inactivated by the presence of biological debris.
  • Check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) before using any product in the workplace to ensure compatibility with other products and instructions for safe use, storage and handling.

How do I safely dispose of used materials?

  • Check all local by-laws to ensure proper disposal of biomedical waste, hazardous waste, contaminated personal protective equipment, and potentially contaminated laundry.
  • Make sure all waste containers are clearly labelled.
  • Check the qualifications of the disposal company and keep all disposal records. Manifests must be maintained.

Document last updated on March 1, 2017

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Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.