Infection prevention and control systems

Evidence-based systems are used to prevent and control healthcare-associated infections. Patients presenting with, or with risk factors for, infection or colonisation with an organism of local, national or global significance are identified promptly, and receive the necessary management and treatment. The health service organisation is clean and hygienic.

Infection control is a health and safety issue. All people working in the health service organisation are responsible for providing a safe environment for consumers and the workforce.

Infectious agents transmitted during provision of health care come primarily from human sources, including patients, clinicians and visitors. Successful infection prevention and control measures involve implementing work practices that prevent the transmission of infectious agents using a two-tiered approach: standard precautions and transmission-based precautions.

Standard precautions are basic infection prevention and control strategies that apply to everyone, regardless of their perceived or confirmed infectious status. Strategies include hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and appropriate handling and disposal of sharps. These are a first-line approach to infection prevention and control in health service organisations, and are routinely applied as an essential strategy for minimising the spread of infections. Standard precautions minimise the risk of transmission of infectious agents from one person or place to another, even in high-risk situations, and render and maintain objects and areas as free as possible from infectious agents.1

Transmission-based precautions are specific interventions to interrupt the mode of transmission of infectious agents. They are used to control infection risk with patients who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with agents transmitted by contact, droplet or airborne routes. Transmission-based precautions are recommended as extra work practices in situations when standard precautions alone may be insufficient to prevent transmission. Transmission-based precautions are also used during outbreaks to help contain the outbreak and prevent further infection. Transmission-based precautions should be tailored to the infectious agent involved and its mode of transmission – this may involve a combination of practices.

Hand hygiene is an essential infection prevention and control strategy. The current National Hand Hygiene Initiative states that hand hygiene must be performed according to the World Health Organization’s My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene approach to prevent patient colonisation and infection. Although the concept of hand hygiene is straightforward, improving hand hygiene practices involves changing attitudes and behaviour among clinicians.

Aseptic technique, use of invasive medical devices, workforce immunisation and environmental cleaning are included in this criterion because they are part of infection prevention and control systems. Health service organisation management is responsible for overseeing the systems and processes to maintain a clean, hygienic environment, including maintenance and upgrading of buildings and equipment; environmental cleaning of the buildings and infrastructure, new products or equipment; and linen handling and management.

For further information on implementing systems for standard and transmission-based precautions, refer to Section A1.2 in the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare.


Standard and transmission-based precautions

Hand hygiene

Aseptic technique

Invasive medical devices

Clean environment

Workforce immunisation


  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian guidelines for the prevention and control of infection in healthcare. Canberra: NHMRC; 2010 (accessed Sep 2017).