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What is Infection Control?
The term infection control is used throughout the healthcare sector and is an integral part of the industry. It relates to all aspects of health, welfare and the protection of personnel. GP surgeries, care homes, hospitals and all other healthcare services continue to ensure the management and implementation of infection control strategies throughout their premises. It is, therefore, a key component in the provision of their services.
The management of infection control is part of an overall management system and is therefore common in most industrial sectors. One example where infection control management is widely implemented is where workers are operating in the sewage industry where exposure to pathogens is increased considerably. The principles of infection control even in this complex working environment will be following the same similar practices as that of a healthcare environment.
So what is infection control?
So what is infection control and why is it so important in the workplace? Infection control is the discipline concerned with preventing healthcare-associated infection. In the workplace it is easier to manage the general hazards associated with any work environment. Through carrying out monitoring in the form of inspections and audits the workplace can identify the level of risk caused by slip, trips, falls, manual handing or exposure to hazardous substances. However, with infection control this is far more difficult.
A pathogen or infection is a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host. Pathogens cannot be seen by the naked eye and therefore presents increased difficultly in controlling and managing the potential outbreaks of infection. Management has a responsibility to ensure that its workforce is adequately trained. This should be specific to the healthcare setting on the potential presence of pathogens and the prevention of pathogen spread. This includes all personnel, including those providing a direct role such as doctors, nurses, GPs and dentists, and those providing supporting roles such as contractors, cleaners, kitchen staff etc. Educating personnel has its challenges due to varied levels of understanding, however, the greatest challenge is often in the provision of adequate risk mitigation strategies for visitors who could introduce pathogens into the workplace environment.
Strategies and implementation
Infection control strategies and implementation plans are used to address factors relating to the spread of infections, including prevention monitoring, investigation of actual or suspected spread of infection and control of outbreaks. The common principles and practices for the implementation of effective infection control focus predominantly on mitigation and the reduction of risk of a potential outbreak within the workplace. Organisations also need to consider strategies that reduce the spread of an outbreak and then contain the spread of an outbreak following any form of detection. Therefore, regular monitoring is an important feature of any implementation plan.
In the next blog, common principles and practices such as hand hygiene, hand washing, cleaning, disinfection and sterilization, vaccination, monitoring and surveillance will be explored with general and specific guidance for the delivery of an infection control strategy.
Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Infection Control Contributor