What Are OPIMs? The term “OPIM” stands for “other potentially infectious materials,” and relate to any bodily fluid that is potentially infectious and can be spread to humans through direct contact. Blood is the first thing that everyone thinks of when considering PIMs (potentially infectious materials), however, there are many bodily fluids that fall into the category of OPIMs that require medical waste disposal services.
What Are OPIMs? The list of OPIMs is fairly long and extensive, but here is a short list of the most common:
There are bodily fluids that aren’t considered as OPIMs that include: tears, urine, sweat, saliva (with exception as part of dental procedures), and vomit. The exception to this rule is if any of these body fluids contain visible blood or OPIM.
Bloodborne pathogens and OPIMs can be transmitted in a number of ways. Individuals in the healthcare industry and any business that has potential exposure to blood or OPIMs are always at risk for exposure and potential transmission of disease.
One of the most common methods of transmission is a skin puncture with a contaminated needle. Puncture with a sharp can be accidental or it can be due to intentional negligence when drugs users share used needles.
The surfaces on our bodies that have mucous membranes are the most susceptible to allow pathogens to enter the body. These surfaces include eyes, nose and mouth, and this is why healthcare workers wear PPE (personal protective equipment) such as masks, gloves, eye wear, and gowns.
Contaminated bodily fluid can also enter the body through broken skin such as a cut or wound. Our skin is our body’s main method of defense against pathogens, however, if there is an opening for a pathogen to enter it can cause infection and allow the spread of a potentially infectious disease.
Any bite that not only breaks the skin, but comes into contact with blood.
Sexual contact can spread bloodborne infections.
Mother-to-fetus transmission during both pregnancy and birth.
Beyond wearing PPE, any organization that is involved in an environment that may allow exposure to OPIMs should have regulated standard procedures in place. These procedures act as a guide for safe practices and precautions for the general workflow to avoid contamination and potential transmission. Emergency procedures should also be in place for actions to be taken in the case of exposure. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has created detailed information and training for all individuals in the healthcare and other industries that are involved in any environment that could allow for exposure to OPIMs.
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