Job applicant with Hep B – are precautions needed?

Job applicant with Hep B – are precautions needed?

By Gaby Grammeno on 27 February 2018 What precautions should we take if an employee has Hepatitis B?

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.

Q Our company is a food import and distribution company. An applicant for a warehouse job stated on his medical certificate they he suffers from Hepatitis B. As we only deal with packaged food and our workers always use gloves, we believe the risk of transmission is fairly minimal.

Are there any precautions we should take? And is our work appropriate for a Hepatitis B sufferer?

A Hepatitis B can be transmitted when bodily fluids (such as blood or semen) infected with Hepatitis B enter the body of a person who is not infected. An infected mother can also transmit the virus to a baby during or shortly after birth.

According to Hepatitis Australia, although the virus can be found in saliva, the disease cannot be spread by kissing, sneezing, coughing, hugging, sharing utensils, holding hands or eating food prepared by a person with Hepatitis B.

This would indicate there are no food safety issues arising from the employment of a worker with Hepatitis B in your warehouse, especially considering you only deal with packaged food and your workers always wear gloves.

The virus is also unlikely to be transmitted to other workers, assuming the workers will not be having unprotected sex or sharing unsterilised needles or syringes with the infected employee.

To allay any fears, it may be worth considering offering the infected person’s co-workers the option of vaccination against Hepatitis B. The World Health Organization states that this vaccine has an outstanding record of safety and effectiveness. However, vaccination of co-workers would not be required from a workplace health and safety point of view.
 

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