By the very nature of the job, cleaning up biohazards can be very dangerous, even lethal, so high-quality protective gear is essential. The biohazards encountered by cleanup professionals vary from scene to scene but the risk of contracting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and cholera is real and must be mitigated with the best protective gear available on the market. The cost of top-quality PPE may be high but when compared with the possibility of catching a deadly disease, represents great value for money. Contrary to what some people may think, biohazard cleanup teams do not simply power wash the affected area and let the hazardous materials run into the drainage system, they need to collect all biohazards and dispose of them following strict regulations.
Now you understand the potential dangers that cleanup workers face, let’s have a look at some of the purpose-designed PPE equipment that keeps them safe.
- Protective Suits (Hazmat suits for handling hazardous materials) – A full-body disposable protective suit is a PPE item that every single biohazard cleanup specialist has to have at the ready. Covering the worker from head to toe with a hood and full legs and sleeves, this PPE is a worker’s first line of defense when dealing with hazardous materials. Protective suits are available in a large range of materials and are certainly more durable than the paper suits you might wear when decorating your house. The most common materials used to make protective suits are polyester/cotton blends which deliver a formidable barrier to general chemical and biological contamination. For some situations, such as a meth lab cleanup, flame retardant suits are the norm due to the flammable and toxic materials used in the process of making the narcotic. The chemicals used in meth production have the potential to penetrate carpets, drapes, furniture, and even walls so you can imagine what would happen if they came into direct contact with human skin.
- Face Mask – Another crucial piece of PPE in a biohazard cleanup professional’s safety inventory is a face mask. As well as covering the face, and protecting against splashing, they also have filters that keep the air clean and mitigate the chance of breathing in hazardous particles. (N-95 Respirators). They also serve as a barrier against odors with decomposing bodies particularly noted for their horrible smell. Depending on the scene, workers may need to wear a half-mask or full-mask respirator to filter out dust, toxic fumes, and other harmful airborne contaminants.
- Gloves – Perhaps one of the more obvious things on the list but no article covering PPE for biohazard cleanups would be complete without at least some reference to gloves. Depending on the nature of the cleanup, workers would generally choose disposable latex gloves (for handling tissue and blood samples) rubber latex gloves, (for flammable solvents and corrosive chemicals), or disposable nitrile gloves. (heavy-duty gloves used for handling chemical and biological materials)
- Eye Safety – Another item of PPE equipment that you’d fully expect to see on a list of PPE gear for biohazard cleanup workers are safety glasses/goggles/visors. Depending on the nature of the incident cleanup workers will generally wear one of three types of eye protection namely: Basic safety goggles (generally used to shield the eyes from airborne debris rather than splashing) chemical splash goggles (snug-fitting glasses with suction to fit correctly, similar to the concept of a diving mask) and face shields. (Commonly worn over goggles for maximum protection from projectiles and airborne debris. Also commonly worn when handling highly toxic materials that present a risk to life)
- Protective footwear – There are several different options when it comes to protective footwear, again, based on the specific scene. Any US-based biohazard cleanup service provider will have a full inventory of protective footwear including chemical spill boots and steel toe cap footwear. Wearing these specialist items of footwear may also involve the use of a protective shoe cover that slips on over the top of the protective footwear. These are also utilized to cover standard footwear to negate the risk of contamination from biohazards.
As part of any article concerning protective gear for biohazard cleanup workers, reference must be made to the levels of PPE. There are four levels of PPE depending on what type of scene the workers are required to attend. The level of protection needed will be ascertained by the manager before any cleanup operatives enter the contaminated area. Generally speaking, biohazard cleanup specialists will wear the recommended protective gear and also wear non-proscribed items if the situation warrants it.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) for biohazard cleanup
The aforementioned items of protective gear used in biohazard cleanups are just a few examples of core PPE equipment, more may be employed if the situation warrants it. Biohazard cleanup companies should be able to provide their workers with all the right PPE in order to complete their tasks safely. Although PPE alone might not prevent injury in the case of a random accident, it does offer an essential layer of protection that is especially crucial for biohazard cleanups.
The training that a biohazard cleanup specialist receives prior to joining a team is heavily focused on safety whilst also reinforcing the need for personal responsibility in potentially hazardous situations that could lead to severe injury or death. The management and team at Aftercare take all the necessary safety measures to ensure their employees can go about their daily work in the safest way possible.
Aftercare is experienced biohazard cleanup specialists that work across Virginia and Northern Carolina covering a number of localities within their service areas. If you are ever in need of an effective cleanup for any reason, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and one of our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the services we offer as a company.