Biological hazards basically organic in origin and are carried by biological vectors. These vectors could be anything from microorganisms, toxins, or bioactive substances. Biological hazards are usually the result of natural occurrences but in some cases, they could also be man-made.
What are biological hazards?
Biological hazards are organisms or substances produced by organisms that pose a high risk to health safety of human beings. All kinds of bacteria, viruses, parasites, molds, and fungi fall in the category of biological hazards. Humans can contract acute and chronic illnesses and infectious diseases when they come into direct touch with animal or plant products carrying the organism. Workers dealing with plants or animals products, or laboratory and medical professionals, face high risk of occupational exposure. If not acted upon immediately, they can become a serious public health issue and can escalate into an endemic or pandemic. Biological hazards are one of the major causes for foodborne illness, and can be a serious problem for food and restaurant industry.
How to know if something is a biological hazard
It is critical to stay aware of biological risks in order to preserve the life of people and the surrounding community. People who work with animals or birds are more likely to face exposure to health safety risks and face challenges to their health care. Exposure to filthy surroundings or those who work in hospitals, laboratories, emergency response centres, schools, nursing homes, and other places, when face health safety issues and show symptoms of infection, we know a biological agent is to blame. Pathogens responsible for infection or intoxication can cause an allergic reaction, sickness, an infection disease, even death. The disease causing biological hazard can be found in poultry, eggs, raw meat, animal or human feces, body fluids etc.
Biological hazards are a major source of risk that may result in disaster situations
The Realities of Biological Hazards is a comprehensive guide to biological hazards for those who want to know more about the topic
What to do once biological hazards have been identified
Once biological hazards have been identified, immediate and timely action should be taken to eliminate them from the environment in order to prevent the spread of infection. This will aid in the management of the hazard as well as in its complete elimination. Administrative and engineering controls, which should be assessed on a regular basis, can help remove biological hazards from the workplace.
Regular cleaning of the workplace
Workplace that deals with animals should prevent and control disease outbreaks in the animal population with proper care of infected animals
Carry out regular pest control
Enforcing the use of safety or personal protective equipment
Ensure proper disposal of biologically hazardous materials and substances for infection control
Administrative checks and balances
Improve the work and health safety procedures to reduce risk
Provide employees with adequate sick leave
Implement employee vaccination programme
Start mental health programme for employees impacted by the severity of the infection
Limit exposure to potential biological hazards
Train employees and release fact sheets to guide people how to navigating through the biological agents
How working alone increases risk from biological hazards
When working alone, the risks of facing bio hazards are higher. Employees' risks at home are magnified as they may not be able to seek immediate help to deal with the bio hazard, or practice unsafe method increasing the exposure to the hazard.
Besides, some bio agents can be difficult to detect, some may show on and off, so knowing how to spot and deal with them is critical for health safety. Moreover, If a worker is required to work in open spaces, his or her risk to bio hazards increases manifold as he may not have a handy support to raise an alarm.
Assessing the risk of biological hazards
You should carry out the risk assessment to determine if there are any other biological agents in your area or at the workplace, whether control measures are required for health safety, and what should be the nature of the biohazard management strategy.
It can be beneficial to estimate the risk from such hazardous agents by following some basic measures.
Identification- Staying alert and aware of any biological hazards helps. Start with creating a 'problem formulation' approach and create a list of questions that will determine the characteristics of the biological agents harmful to human or environmental health.
Risk character- Assess the likely danger and consequences of the identified risk by carrying out Hazard Analysis
Risk exposure-Identify people who are in danger through exposure assessment. Identifying who will be present, when they will arrive, and for how long will assist in the implementation of disaster mitigation measures. Going through the records of previous biohazard-related accidents, sickness statistics, and any disease control measures will help. One can also investigate non-routine processes, and watch for long-term health risks to people. It is necessary to examine the risks that biohazardous waste poses to employees and others who come into contact with it in order to select the best management techniques.
Management techniques- Determine the necessary safeguards after assessing the biohazard risks and prepare your strategy based on the asked questions while chalking your problem formulation process. Businesses with five or more employees need to document their hazard management processes in a fact sheet. Keeping track of all pertinent information, such as potential hazards, who is most likely to be impacted, and how do you plan to manage the hazard will definitely helps in creating a robust action plan.
Biological hazards are a major source of risk that may result in disaster situations
Knowledge is power. Learn about biological hazards and how you can protect yourself from them
Prevention of biological hazards
There are simple and basic steps that can protect us all from biohazards at work. Some of them are as follows- Maintaining vigilance and not taking any single episode of biological hazard exposure lightly. Take necessary safeguards
Washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water
Using proper disposal methods, such as biohazard bags or labelled containers
When dealing with biohazards, using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks, face shields, gloves, respirators, full-body suits, and so on.
Reporting the incident of biohazard exposure to your supervisor as soon as possible
In addition to taking personal measures, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Biological Safety Association are among government agencies in the United States that can help. They have come up with specific measures that employers must follow to protect workers against biohazards in the workplace.
Sources of biological hazard
We bring to you sources of some of the major biological hazards that can be a concern for public health.
Listeria monocytogenes is a species of the disease-causing bacteria that can be found in soil, water, decaying vegetation and animals. It can even survive and grow under refrigeration and other food preservation measures. Luncheon meat, hot dogs, deli salads, smoked fish, unpasteurized or soft cheeses, and fresh cut vegetables are some of the foods linked to the outbreaks. It is crucial for food retail and restaurant businesses to not only strictly supervise the temperature at which they store the food items, but also follow robust food safety management processes.
Salmonella is a bacterial genus that can cause gastrointestinal disease and fever in humans who consume raw or undercooked meals. Animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, milk, or eggs, are frequently infected, but any item, even vegetables and fruits can get contaminated. If food handlers do not wash their hands properly before handling food, bacteria from the animals can spread to food.
Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia that is caused by an infection in the lungs. It's caused by the legionella bacterium. Legionnaires' disease is most commonly contracted by breathing germs from water or dirt.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in many body areas. Because it's resistant to several commonly used antibiotics, it's more difficult to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus, or staph. MRSA is spread through direct contact.
Hepatitis is a liver infection that causes inflammation. It is usually caused by a viral infection. Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E are the five primary viral classifications of hepatitis. Each kind of viral hepatitis is caused by a distinct virus. Hepatitis B and C, in particular, are regarded as serious health risks among healthcare workers. These bloodborne illnesses can be passed from a health care worker to a patient or the other way around.
Escherichia coli are bacteria that live in people's and animals' intestines and contribute to intestinal health. However, eating or drinking food or water contaminated with specific forms of Escherichia coli can result in gastrointestinal sickness ranging from mild to severe.
Biological hazards are a major concern for the public
The Realities of Biological Hazards will help you understand the risks and realities of biological hazards