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Selective employmee group (commercial divers) annual physical-HIV blood test?
Jan 8, 2004

Selective employmee group (commercial divers) annual physical-HIV blood test?

We are a small engineering company, but a substantial part of our work force are commercial divers. There is a company requirement as well as an (ADC)Association of Diving Contractors requirement for an annual dive physical. One of the blood test categories ont he dive physical form under blood test is HIV. Is it legal to perform this test on a mandatory basis for our divers? Our divers use common dive helmets and dry suits. Although the helmets are washed out with antiseptic before each separate use bodily fluids could conceivably be passed. (mucous, blood etc)

Response from Ms. Breuer

If your testing found an HIV-positive diver, what would you do?

The answer to that question should tell you that you don't need to do an HIV test. Why would HIV status matter? If the helmets are washed out with antiseptic--or even sea water--between users, you're more than covered for any body fluids that might contain HIV. Blood is the only one likely to show up in a helmet, and any HIV in blood in a helmet certainly wouldn't survive exposure to sea water. It wouldn't survive exposure to air. And mucous doesn't transmit HIV. Blood, semen, breast milk, vaginal fluids. That's it. How many of the four are likely to be in a diving suit?

Instead, I recommend putting your energy (and financial resources, since HIV tests are not free) into teaching ALL divers how to do first aid competently and safely in light of all the bloodborne pathogens, especially hepatitis. You already do that? Then you've already done all you need to do to protect others from exposure to HIV.

I'm not at all sure why the question is even on the form, but please remember that if you ask for an employee's confidential medical information and get it, you can be accused of misusing it in the future. If the employee believes that you have discriminated against him/her and can demonstrate that you demanded to know HIV status, you could have a much harder time defending yourself against that accusation than if you limited your annual physical to data and conditions that have a direct impact on ability to dive.

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