Who Cleans Up Bodily Fluids?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about safety responsibility:

Who is responsible for cleaning bodily fluids in a work place?cleaner or first aider?

Signed, Grossed Out

DearĀ Grossed Out:

This is more common of a question than many might realize. Some custodial or janitorial staff feel that the person who has already had their hands in the various things involved with giving first aid or attending to a sick person, should be the one to clean the area. The first aid provider usually feels that the work, skill and emotional upset that goes along with providing first aid is work enough. The decision is usually made based on who has easy access to the correct cleaning supplies and who is trained, or at least accustomed, to using the various cleansers and supplies.

That is usually the cleaning staff, not the person who provided first aid. However, there is no legal requirement and that decision could be made differently in various settings. I have seen areas littered with blood and gore, bandage wrappers, plastic bottles and torn items of clothing, and it stays that way until janitorial staff can come to clean it. I always made a point of giving extra, extra thanks to the maintenance staff after such situations. I once slipped some cash into the pocket of a janitor who cleaned up after someone was very sick. But, as a first aid provider I occasionally did the clean-up, figuring I was already over the gross-factor so I might as well be doing the cleaning. In one such case the janitor stopped me and said, “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but you don’t know how to do it right. Let me do it.” I was happy to let him!

The bottom line for work is that we do what we have to do and try to do it so well that everyone is grateful that we were around to do it. It’s unpleasant to clean up bodily fluids of any kind, even for those we love, let alone for strangers. But, with gloves, maybe a face mask, shoe coverings if needed, the right kind of cleaners and a focus on getting it done, it goes fairly quickly. Jimmy Buffet has a song with lyrics written by Lyman McCannaly, Jr., called, “It’s My Job.” The main message: “It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess and that’s enough reason to go for me. It’s my job to be better than the best and that makes the day for me.” I hope this was helpful! Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe