bloodborne pathogen exposure incident

When it comes to healthcare, the health of patients and healthcare professionals must always come first. Managing accidents where people are exposed to bloodborne pathogens (BBP) and protecting them from them are important parts of this safety. This article discusses the definition of BBP, some examples, and the mechanisms by which exposure accidents may occur in the healthcare industry.

What is BBP (Bloodborne Pathogens)?

Bloodborne pathogens (BBP) are infectious microorganisms, like viruses and bacteria, which can be present in human blood and specific bodily fluids. They have the potential to cause serious diseases in humans. Some common examples of BBP include:

  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C (HCV)
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Incident: Understanding the Risks

In healthcare settings, a bloodborne pathogen exposure incident refers to any situation where a healthcare worker comes into contact with potentially infectious blood or bodily fluids. This can happen due to accidental needlesticks, contact with mucous membranes, or exposure to non-intact skin.

How Can BBP Exposure Occur?

BBP exposure can occur through various scenarios, such as accidental needlesticks or sharps injuries, contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), or contact with non-intact skin (cuts, abrasions).

What Does OPIM Stand For?


OPIM stands for “Other Potentially Infectious Materials.” It encompasses a range of substances and materials that may contain bloodborne pathogens or have the potential to transmit infectious diseases. According to OSHA definition, OPIM includes:

  1. Human body fluids: This category comprises various bodily fluids, such as semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, and amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is challenging to differentiate between them.
  2. Unfixed tissue or organs (other than intact skin) from a human, whether living or deceased.
  3. HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions.
  4. Blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard was developed for protect healthcare workers from the risks associated with bloodborne pathogens. This standard sets guidelines for preventing exposure incidents and ensuring the safety of healthcare staff and patients.

Responding to Exposure Incidents:

While on work, providers might face the following situations:

  • Accidental needlestick or sharps injury
  • Accidental exposure of body parts

What do you do first when a blood-exposure incident occurs?

  1. Clean needlesticks and cuts using soap and water
  2. Rinse splashes to the nose, mouth, or skin with water
  3. Flush eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants
  4. Report the incident to your supervisor
  5. Take immediate medical treatment without delay

To learn more, check out our Needle-Stick Safety and Prevention Training program at American Healthcare Compliance.

Who May Perform a Post Exposure Medical Evaluation BBP

If a worker experiences an exposure incident, their employer must provide them with immediate and private medical evaluation. This evaluation should be:

  • Available at no cost to the worker.
  • Done by a licensed physician or healthcare professional.
  • Follow the recommendations of the U.S. Public Health Service.

Any necessary laboratory tests should be done by an accredited lab and also provided at no cost to the worker. The worker can choose to have their blood tested for infection status, but they have the option to decline HIV testing.

Work Practices and Administrative Controls

bloodborne pathogen exposure incident

Healthcare facilities should establish exposure control plans, label biohazardous waste, and implement safe disposal procedures to reduce exposure risks. Protocols must also be in place to address incidents of exposure effectively.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are essential to minimize bloodborne pathogen hazards. They consist of secure sharps disposal containers made of puncture-resistant materials and safety-engineered sharps devices, such as retracting needles and hinged needle shields.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

While administrative and engineering controls are preferred, healthcare workers should also use PPE as needed. This includes face protection:

  • Masks or face shields
  • Eye protection with goggles
  • Gloves
  • Protective gowns

American Healthcare Compliance provides essential training to healthcare professionals in order for them to protect themselves against bloodborne diseases and needlestick injuries. Our infection control courses are designed to help healthcare providers improve their expertise, resulting in a safer and more secure healthcare environment. Please fill out the form below and contact us.


Any healthcare environment must protect personnel and patients from bloodborne pathogens. Preventing health hazards requires understanding BBP and exposure incidents. Exposure individuals must receive immediate, confidential medical evaluations from employers. Professional techniques, administrative controls, engineering solutions, and PPE are also important for risk reduction. Healthcare personnel can improve safety with American Healthcare Compliance training. To improve healthcare security, and your safety efforts improve healthcare quality and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of OPIMs?

Examples of Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIMs) include semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any visibly contaminated body fluid with blood, and situations where differentiating between body fluids is challenging.

Which disease is transmitted through blood or OPIM?

Diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B (HBV), and Hepatitis C (HCV) can be transmitted through exposure to blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials.

What is an example of direct contact with blood or OPIM?

Direct contact with blood or OPIM can occur during procedures like handling contaminated medical instruments, administering injections, or cleaning up spills of these materials.

What is in a bloodborne pathogen kit?

A bloodborne pathogen kit typically includes items like gloves, face shields, protective gowns, antiseptic wipes, absorbent materials, and biohazard disposal bags for safe handling and disposal of contaminated materials.

Who may perform a post-exposure evaluation?

A licensed physician or another licensed healthcare professional, under the supervision of a physician, is authorized to conduct a post-exposure evaluation.

What should be done first after an exposure incident?

Wash needlesticks and cuts with soap and water, flush splashes to the nose, mouth, or skin with water, and irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigants. Additionally, report the incident to your supervisor and seek immediate medical attention.

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