Communicable diseases include tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis, measles, chickenpox and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). They are caused by contact with agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and animal parasites which are capable of producing disease.
UTS has a legislative requirement to:
- identify the areas where there is a risk of transmission of communicable diseases, and
- take steps to minimise the risk.
The communicable diseases program at UTS focuses on preventing the transmission of communicable diseases by ensuring that:
- safe work practices are adopted,
- immunisation, information and training is provided to staff and students working in high risk areas, and
- people with communicable diseases are not discriminated against.
If there is a risk of exposure to blood or body substances or where airborne infection may occur, standard precautions must be adopted and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn, e.g.:
- protective eye wear and face shields,
- gowns and/or plastic aprons, and
All communicable disease related accidents and incidents must be reported to the supervisor of the work area immediately.
Have a responsibility to ensure that:
- they identify activities that may place staff and students at risk of acquiring a communicable disease,
- risk assessments are conducted for all workplace tasks where exposure to a communicable disease is a potential,
- steps are taken to reduce risks, and safe work practices are documented,
- staff and students are provided with information and training in safe work practice specific to the activities that may place staff and students at risk,
- they promote immunisation for preventable diseases to staff and students at risk,
- in case of an accident, the appropriate medical intervention is provided, and action is taken to prevent the accident/incident from happening again, and
- any accident or incident involving exposure to a communicable disease or potential or actual exposure to blood or body fluids is reported to Safety & Wellbeing immediately by following the accident and incident reporting process.
Staff and students
Are responsible for following the established procedures for safe work practice and not wilfully placing at risk the health, safety and well-being of others. This responsibility includes:
- using personal protective equipment as required,
- reporting incidents involving exposure to blood or body fluids, and
- seeking information or advice as necessary, particularly while carrying out new or unfamiliar work.
Safety & Wellbeing
Safety & Wellbeing is responsible for providing staff and students with access to relevant information on communicable diseases at UTS. This includes information on generic safe work practices, immunisation and reporting and reacting to exposures.
With respect to exposure-related incidents, Safety & Wellbeing is responsible for:
- promoting and monitoring the reporting of individual exposures to blood and body fluids, and
- providing advice and support to faculties and units when managing an individual exposure to blood and body fluids.
A further responsibility of Safety & Wellbeing is to provide relevant information, training and personal protective equipment to first aid officers.
Equity and Diversity Unit
Is responsible for providing support and advice to staff and students on issues of discrimination, harassment and victimisation relating to communicable diseases. This includes providing staff and students with access to information on the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Federal Disability Discrimination Act and relevant provisions of the legislation within UTS.
Student Services Unit
Is responsible for providing relevant information and medical advice to staff and students on the transmission of communicable diseases. This includes:
- providing an immunisation service,
- offering an appropriate medical service for the management of individuals potentially exposed to communicable diseases in accordance with the relevant Department of Health guidelines,
- providing appropriate medical advice to staff and students suffering from a communicable disease, and
- promoting the services that are available to staff and students.
Is responsible for implementing the guidelines for the medical exclusion of students in accordance with UTS policy and rules.
Step 1: Identify the hazard
During the planning stage of any experiment or teaching practical using animal or human material which has a risk of infection, the identification all possible hazards and a documented assessment of the risks associated with the hazards must be undertaken.
Where high-risk hazards are identified, controls to minimise such risks must be established using the hierarchy of controls.
Safety and Wellbeing can provide advice on this process.
Step 2: Assess risk
Supervisors within faculties and units are responsible for determining any activities that may place staff and students at risk of acquiring a communicable disease during the course of their work or study - these include:
- any tasks involving contact with blood and other body fluids or handling contaminated sharps, such as, working with clients/patients in health care facilities, administering first aid, some laboratory work
- working with specimens of human or animal origin
- outdoor work involving exposure to soil, potting mix, sewage, dirty tools or used and discarded syringes
- working with children, such as in childcare centres, health care facilities
- travel overseas in the course of work or study.
Step 3: Controlling the risk
The activities identified are associated with different levels of risk and therefore require different actions in order to minimise the risk.
The following table outlines the action required to minimise the risks related to the activities listed in Step 2:
|1) and/or 2)||
|3) or 4)||
All incidents that place a staff member or student at risk of infection from exposure to blood or body fluids should be managed in accordance with NSW Department of Health Guidelines. The Department of Health Guidelines (opens an external site) make recommendations about the immediate management of occupational exposures which include providing first aid and an appropriate medical assessment immediately after the incident.
In the event of an incident involving an exposure to blood or body fluids the staff member or student at risk should as soon as possible do the following:
- wash the exposure site with soap and water
- If the eyes are contaminated then rinse them, whilst they are open, with water or normal saline;
- If blood or other body substances get in the mouth, spit them out and then rinse the mouth with water several times;
- if clothing is contaminated remove clothing
The student or staff member should be referred immediately to either the University Health Service in the Student Services Unit or their own doctor for a medical assessment.
Safety & Wellbeing can provide faculties and units with advice on managing exposures to blood and body fluids.
UTS recommends that staff and students at risk of exposure to communicable diseases are aware of their immune status.
Staff and students who are not immune are advised to undertake the recommended course of immunisation in order to minimise the risk of contracting a serious, vaccine preventable disease.
There is further information on vaccination.
- Vaccination recommendations
- Guidelines for medical exclusion of adults at UTS with specified infectious diseases
- Sharps and needlestick injuries
State government legislation
- Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) (opens an external site)
NSW Health Department
- Infection Prevention and Control Policy (opens an external site)
- HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C - Management of Health Care Workers Potentially Exposed (opens an external site)
Department of Health (Australia Government)
- Infection control guidelines for the prevention of transmission of infectious diseases in the health care setting (opens an external site)
ISBN 0 642 82292 1 (printed)
ISBN 0 642 82293 X (electronic)
Communicable Diseases Network Australia
- Website: Communicable Diseases Network Australia (opens an external site)
Guidelines for Managing Blood-Borne Virus Infection in Health Care Workers (opens an external site)
Safe Work Australia (Australian Government)
- National Code of Practice for the Control of Work-related Exposure to Hepatitis and HIV (blood-borne) Viruses (PDF, 170kB) (opens an external site)
[NOHSC: 2010 (2003) 2nd Edition]
ISBN 19207763 24 4