Biohazard is defined as any biological substance that poses threat to the health of living organisms. A biohazard can be a microorganism including any bacteria, virus, plant, animal, or their byproducts like blood samples, medical waste, needles, and more. Potential biohazards can be found anywhere – in a laboratory, at the workplace, in a doctor's office, in playgrounds.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are four levels of biohazards.
Biohazard Level 1: Agents that pose minimal threat to humans and the environment. For example - E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Naegleria gruberi.
Biohazard Level 2: Agents that can cause mild infections to humans and are transmitted via direct contact with infected material. For example - HIV, hepatitis B, and salmonella.
Biohazard Level 3: Pathogens can become airborne and cause severe diseases for which vaccines and other treatments are available. For example - Tuberculosis and Coxiella burnetii.
Biohazard Level 4: Pathogens that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease for which there are no treatments. For example - the Ebola virus and Lassa virus.
Biohazardous waste must be disposed of in clinical waste bags depending on their class.
Responsible disposal of biohazardous waste by laboratories and other facilities include:
You can take several safety measures to prevent biohazard accidents at the workplace like -
No. When a biohazard occurs, professionals or experts are needed to clean up so that there is no room for illness or life-threatening conditions developing afterward. Biohazard cleanup is a process to completely clean, sanitize, and deodorize the site where the accident has happened.
Improper treatment can spread contamination and cause further damage like outbreaks and structural damage to the property. The thorough cleanup and disinfection process requires specialized equipment and appropriate certifications by the professionals.
Biohazard containers are used for the disposal of waste that may be contaminated with pathogens, which are dangerous to people and the surroundings. Biohazard containers must be closed before handling and shipping. Therefore, it should be fully closable, should be free of leakages during handling, storage, and transport, and properly labeled with the appropriate color-coded biohazard labels. The red biohazardous sharps containers must meet the standards of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The container must be rigid, puncture-resistant, leak-resistant, equipped with a tight-fitting cover, and labeled with the international biohazard symbol and the word “BIOHAZARD.”
Yes, Coronavirus is a biological hazard for handling and processing specimens associated with SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). The organization has also determined that medical waste generated in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and patients under investigation (PUIs) be managed in accordance with routine procedures.
OSHA 1910.1030, the standard for Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens states that Biohazard warning labels must have the biohazard symbol and legend in a contrasting color (usually black) to a fluorescent orange or orange-red background.
The symbol design must conform with the universal Biohazard design specified in OSHA 1910.145(f)(8)(ii)and contain the word “Biohazard” or “Biological Hazard.” The background color is optional as long as there is sufficient contrast for the biohazard symbol to be clearly defined.
OSHA does not have a specific standard for biohazard safety at the workplace. Only one of its standards (1910.1030 - Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens) discusses biohazard safety in a laboratory setting. “The bloodborne pathogens standard requires that the biohazard label be affixed to containers of regulated waste and other containers used to store, transport, or ship blood or other potentially infectious materials; a red container may be substituted for the biohazard label.”
However, in general, once a biological hazard is identified in the workplace, it is essential to eliminate or reduce the risk to employees. Two types of controls can be implemented to address biological hazards - administrative and engineering controls.
Engineering controls can include regular cleaning, pest prevention/extermination, wearing proper PPE, and proper disposal of Biohazards.
Administrative controls can include allowing medical leaves to employees, providing immunization programs, limiting exposure to biohazards, and training staff to work safely around them.