Biological hazards are organic substances that pose a threat to the health of humans and other living organisms. Biological hazards include pathogenic micro-organisms, viruses, toxins (from biological sources), spores, fungi and bio-active substances, etc.
Classification of biological hazards
Bio hazardous agents are classified for transportation by UN number:
- Category A, UN 2814 – Infectious substance, affecting humans: An infectious substance in a form capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals when exposure to it occurs.
- Category A, UN 2900 – Infectious substance, affecting animals (only): An infectious substance that is not in a form generally capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans and animals when exposure to themselves occurs.
- Category B, UN 3373 – Biological substance transported for diagnostic or investigative purposes.
- Regulated Medical Waste, UN 3291 – Waste or reusable material derived from medical treatment of an animal or human, or from biomedical research, which includes the production and testing.
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Biological hazards exposure and illustration
Biological hazards pose risks for many workers in a wide variety of ways. See instances:
- Workers in health care professions are exposed to biological hazards via contact with human bodily matter, such as blood, tissues, saliva, mucous, urine and faeces, because these substances have a high risk of containing viral or bacterial diseases.
- People who work with live animals or animal products (blood, tissue, milk, eggs) are exposed to animal diseases and infections, some of which (zoonoses) have the potential to infect humans (for example, Q-fever, avian flu or Hendra virus) or cause serious allergy via sensitisation.
- Short-term exposures to certain wood dusts may result in asthma, conjunctivitis, rhinitis or allergic dermatitis. Some thermophilic micro-organisms found in wood are human pathogens, and inhalation of ascomycete spores from stored wood chips has been implicated in human illnesses.
- Museum and library personnel are exposed to moulds (e.g., Aspergillus, Pencillium) which, under certain conditions, contaminate books. Symptoms experienced are attacks of fever, chill, nausea and cough.
- Ocular infections can result from the use of industrial microscope eyepieces on multiple shifts. Staphylococcus aureus has been identified among the micro-organism cultures.
Prevention of bio-hazards
Effective prevention starts with understanding the principles of epidemiology and the spread of infectious disease.
Preliminary and periodic medical examinations of workers should be carried out in order to detect biological occupational diseases to detect adverse health effects of workplace exposure, including biological hazards.
Read Also: Ways of identifying hazards in the workplace
Click on the link below to see some regulations associated with biological hazards.