July 6 is National Injury Prevention Day and in recognition, the SEIU-West Worker Safety Committee wrote this piece about infection control in order to help stop the spread of infectious diseases/viruses. 



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.

There are 5 major components to routine practices. They are: risk assessment, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, environmental and administrative controls.

Risk Assessment

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:

  • Time it takes to complete the task.
  • Type of body fluids that the worker may come into contact with.
  • Presence of microorganisms in the bodily fluids.
  • Route of potential exposure to these microorganisms.
  • Susceptibility of the worker to these microorganisms.
  • Environment in which the task is carried out.

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.

It is suggested that the following questions be asked while assessing the risk:

  1. What task am I going to perform?
  2. What is the risk of exposure to:
  • Blood and body fluids including respiratory secretions (COVID-19)?
  • Non-intact skin?
  • Mucous membranes?
  • Body tissues?
  • Contaminated equipment?
  1. How competent/experienced am I in performing this task?
  2. Will the patient be cooperative while I perform the task?

Hand Hygiene

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 sanitizer (when hands are not visibly soiled) or with soap and water (especially when hands are visibly soiled).

In healthcare settings, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is preferred when hands are not visibly soiled. For healthcare providers, using sanitizer is said to take less time than hand washing, and the mechanical rubbing action is important to kill transient bacteria. The sanitizer is also less drying to the skin when hands are cleaned repetitively. The sanitizer should contain between 70 and 90% alcohol.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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:

Gown Donning

  1. Perform hand hygiene.
  2. Put gown on, opening to the back.
  3. Fasten both the neck and waist ties.

Gown Doffing (Steps to remove PPE)

  1. Remove gloves
  2. Perform hand hygiene for minimum of 15 seconds
  3. Remove gown gently, unfasten top tie first, then waist tie. Grasp the outside of the gown at the back of the shoulders and pull the gown down over the arms.

Turn the gown inside out during removal. Continue folding the gown inward on to itself away from you until it is small enough to discard. Put in hamper or, if disposable, put in garbage.

  1. Perform hand hygiene for minimum of 15 seconds.


  1. Perform hand hygiene for minimum of 15 seconds
  2. Remove eye protection
  3. Perform hand hygiene for minimum of 15 seconds
  4. Remove mask.

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, goggles, face shield (with safety glasses or goggles), or a mask with an attached visor (and safety glasses or goggles).

Environmental Controls

Environmental control refers to controlling and minimizing the level of microorganisms in the environment. Environmental control measures include:

  • Consistent and stringent equipment and work area cleaning, including laundry protocols and schedules.
  • Proper disposal of waste such as sharps, biomedical, and pathological waste.
  • Appropriate ventilation and other engineering controls.
  • Installation of easily accessible and clearly identified waste containers, hand hygiene product dispensers, and dedicated hand wash sinks.

Administrative Controls

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.

What are additional precautions?

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 COVID-19 Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Vanomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), or other diseases caused by antibiotic or antimicrobial resistant bacteria or organisms.

Additional precautions include following routine practices, plus:

  • Having specialized accommodation and appropriate signage.
  • Using barrier equipment (specific PPE).
  • Having dedicated equipment and additional cleaning measures.
  • Limiting the transport of patients.
  • Having good communication between departments or units.

Are routine practices required by law?

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, contact the departments responsible for occupational health and safety or for public health in your province.

Where can I find more information?

Call the SEIU-West Member Resource Centre (MRC) at  1-888-999-SEIU (7348)  or via the website at https://www.seiuwest.ca/contact

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