Biohazard contamination in the workplace is very much a hot topic in 2023 but it has always been a serious concern among health & safety professionals and one that every business should address, sooner rather than later. As environmental specialists in Virginia and North Carolina, we offer a comprehensive biohazard cleanup service, which you are welcome to take advantage of whenever you are faced with a contamination issue. In the meantime, we recommend following the suggestions in this guide to minimize the risk of future biohazard contamination issues.
Addressing Biohazard Safety in the Workplace
Many people are under the misapprehension that biohazard safety protocols are only relevant to medical facilities and pharmaceutical manufacturing/research facilities but this is not the case. Companies in a wide variety of industries, including agriculture, law enforcement and waste management, need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to minimize the risk of biohazard contamination. To help you get started, we’ll cover all the basic information you need to know, starting with a clear definition of what constitutes a biohazard.
What Exactly Is a Biohazard?
A biohazard in the workplace is any pathogen that may pose a risk to the health of your employees. A pathogen is a microorganism that spreads disease, such as a virus, fungus, or bacterium.
Biohazards are divided into 4 specific groups, according to the level of risk they pose, with Group 1 biohazards being the most dangerous:
- Group 1 Biohazards – These are pathogens that cause serious diseases that often result in death. Examples of Group 1 biohazards include the Ebola virus and Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis).
- Group 2 Biohazards – Group 2 biohazards are pathogens that, while less dangerous than Group 1 biohazards, still pose a significant danger to employees. Hepatitis C and HIV are examples of Group 2 biohazards.
- Group 3 Biohazards – In this group are pathogens that are known to cause diseases but not ones that are considered as high risk as those caused by pathogens in Group 1 and Group 2. Examples include the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis and the varicella-zoster virus which is commonly known as chickenpox.
- Group 4 Biohazards – In the last group of biohazards are pathogens that are not known to cause disease in humans but can lead to serious conditions if left unchecked. Escherichia coli, which is a leading cause of food poisoning, is one example of a Group 4 biohazard.
Identifying biohazards in your workplace and classifying them according to the level of risk they pose is the first step in introducing comprehensive biohazard control measures, as we discuss below.
Biohazard Identification Risk Assessment
The first task you need to complete when introducing biohazard control measures is to identify all potential sources of biohazards in your workplace, classify them according to risk (i.e. identify which group they belong to) and assess the precise level of risk they pose to your employees.
If you are planning on addressing biohazard safety in the workplace and are unable to identify and assess potential risks accurately, we recommend hiring a team of professionals to ensure that you do not overlook anything important.
Biohazard Prevention: Protecting Your Workforce
In order to adequately protect employees and visitors from any risks that have been identified, you should consider implementing the following measures:
- Staff Training – The more knowledge your employees have, the less likely they will be to inadvertently expose themselves to unnecessary risks while in the workplace. They will also be better equipped to protect any visitors to your premises. There are a number of general biosafety and biosecurity training programs you may wish to consider, alongside primary training from onsite experts. Primary training must be made available in facilities where there is a real risk of exposure to known pathogens, such as in an infectious diseases research laboratory.
- Use of Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Having identified all of the biohazard risks that are present in your workplace and classified them according to the level of risk they pose, you will be in a position to draw up new regulations on the wearing of PPE by employees. The type of PPE that should be worn will depend on the level and extent of any risks that have been identified. Naturally, employees in more dangerous areas of your workplace may need to wear more or different PPE than those in other, safer areas.
- Eliminate or Limit Biohazards Where Possible – In some workplaces, such as hospitals or pharmaceutical research facilities, it will not be possible to eliminate all sources of biohazards. However, it should be possible to limit both the extent of any contamination that may arise and the exposure of employees to contaminated areas. Measures to eliminate and limit biohazards may include the regular disinfection of surfaces and the screening of workers who are exposed to pathogens.
If you follow all of the above suggestions, you will be able to reduce the risks to which your employees and any visitors are exposed. However, it is important to remember that the management of biohazard risks in the workplace is not a one-and-done task: you should schedule regular inspections, along with comprehensive reviews of the measures you already have in place, to ensure that you continue to provide your workforce with the highest level of protection possible at all times.
If you have any questions about addressing biohazard safety in the workplace, please feel free to call or message us.