Breaking the Chain Of Infection in the Workplace

Breaking the chain of infection simply means the scientific and practical measures  used prevent and control infections in the workplace.

  1. Assessment for infection risk
  2. Hand hygiene
  3. Respiratory and cough hygiene
  4. Personal Protective Equipment
  5. Safe handling of needles and sharp objects
  6. Cleaning and disinfection
  7. Safe disposal of waste and body fluids

Learning Check

Assessments for Risk of Infection in the workplace

  • It is important that a risk assessment of infections is developed in the workplace to identify risk of infections.
  • Having assessed the risk of infections, practical and sensible measures must be put in place to control the risk of infection  in the workplace.
  • It is important that all employers are involved in the development of risk assessments as this will give everyone a good understanding of health and safety issues in the workplace.
  • People and the environment should continually be assessed for the risk of infections
  • Employers must continually review and update their risk assessment documents in view of public health advice or issues arising in the workplace
  • Make sure you identify all those who might be affected, not just employees – remember contractors, members of the public and others.
  • Infection risk assessments in the workplace break the ‘infectious agent and susceptible agent link’

Hand Hygiene

  • Hand hygiene  refers to washing with anti-bacterial soap and water, or the use of alcohol gel to decontaminate hands. It is the single most efficient way to prevent the spread of infections.
  • Hand hygiene is to be performed before and after client care, before preparing food, before eating, after using the toiler, and after coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
  • Hand Hygiene breaks the ‘mode of transmission link’.

Respiratory and cough hygiene 

The Catch it, Bin it and Kill it  approach breaks the ‘portal of exit link’.

  • Catch it:  Covering the nose/mouth with a tissue or sneezing or using the crook of the elbow to contain respiratory droplets
  • Bin it: Germs can survive for hours therefore tissues must be discarded in the nearest waste disposal bin after use.
  • Kill it: Hands can transmit germs to any area that it touches including skin and hard surfaces thereby causing contamination. Hands are to be washed with quality soap under running water or antibacterial alcohol gel should be used, to decontaminate hands after coughing or sneezing


  • Spitting can spread infection and cause health problems.  It is also a health hazard that can adversely impact our health.
  • Spitting may include spitting into the rubbish bins, kitchen sinks, wash basins or on the ground.
  • Respiratory and cough Hygiene breaks the ‘portal of exit link’.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes items such as gloves, gowns, masks, respirators and eyewear used to create barriers that protect skin, eyes and the respiratory tract from infection.
  • PPE is mainly equipment used in the workplace for safety and protection against harm including infection from pathogens. The items selected for use depend on the type of interactions that is had with a co-worker, customer, client or visitor to the workplace.
  • PPE can be worn when cleaning chemical spillages and bodily fluids such as vomit.
  • PPE breaks the mode of transmission and portal of entry.

Safe handling of needles and sharp objects

  • Safe handling of needles and sharp devices are standard precautions that are implemented in the workplace to prevent health care workers and first aiders exposure to blood pathogens.
  • When the handling of needles and sharp objects is required, your employer must provide detailed instructions and these instruction must be strictly adhered to.
  • Single use equipment such as needles and syringes once used must be discarded.

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • The workplace environment must be physically clean.
  • Communal areas that serve food and beverages, common waiting areas such as meeting rooms and halls, kitchen and food preparation areas and other commonly touched surfaces should be cleaned routinely.
  • In the case of offices that use ‘hot seats’ or shared equipment such as computers and printers, alcohol- based disinfectant and wipes are to be used to decontaminate surfaces
  • Multi-use and reusable equipment needs to be cleaned after use by each client.
  • Safe management of environment breaks the link of ‘reservoir and mode of transmission’

Disposal of Waste

The main types of waste include general waste, organic products, recyclable products, clinical waste, pharmaceutical waste, bio-hazardous waste and chemical waste.

Litter can be very dirty and may carry germs. Some insects and animals are attracted to areas with lots of litter. They find their food among the garbage and can pick up germs and become carriers for diseases that may make people sick. Litter is not be carried out in the or in the near vicinity of the workplace.

General waste
General waste such as food scraps, tissues, and other forms of rubbish can spread infection

General waste is to be collected and disposed on a regular basis as to prevent the build up of bacteria and the attraction of insects and vermin that thrive from garbage.

Bio-hazardous Waste
Bio-hazardous waste, is waste that consists of infectious materials or possibly infectious e.g. blood. Of special concern are sharp wastes such as needles, blades, glass pipettes, and other wastes that can causes injury during handling.

Standard precautions are a set of infection control practises used to limit the spread of infection in the workplace. They must be adhered to as a matter of workplace safety, regardless of whether you or others in the workplace appear to be infectious

There are many standard precautions used to limit the spread of infection in the workplace including:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Cleaning and disinfections
  • Disposal of waste
  • Safe handling of needles and other sharp devices
  • Personal protective equipment

Standard precautions must be adhered to as a matter of etiquette and work health and safety, regardless of whether you or others in the workplace appear to be infectious.

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