Workplace health and safety – protect against biological hazards

Workplace health and safety – protect against biological hazards

Steps to reduce risks from the biological hazards in your workplace

“Biological hazards?” you ask. “Our business isn’t pharmaceuticals or research. What biological hazards can there possibly be in our workplace?” You’d be surprised. Every workplace must battle against biological hazards. If you don’t consider them when developing your health and safety policy, then you’re failing your employees and in breach of health and safety regulations – a breach which could put your business in jeopardy.

What is a biological hazard?

A biological hazard can be caused by any organism or substance that might threaten your health. And, as you’ll see in a moment or two, there are plenty of these.

Where are biological hazards found?

Of course, biological hazards are found in working environments like research labs, but they are also found wherever people work with other people, animals, and in unsanitary conditions. A few examples are:

  • Farms (or other places that involve working with animals)
  • Hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dentists (where people may be infectious)
  • Waste disposal, collection, and recycling
  • Sewerage works and maintenance
  • Any environment where there are risks from biological hazards

3 steps to deal with biological hazards and reduce risks

You should undertake a risk assessment for all biological hazards, and involve your employees in the process. The three steps for this are to:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who is at risk
  3. Evaluate the risks and produce precautions

What are the major biological hazards?

Biological hazards are produced by people, plants, and animals. For example:

  • Infected people – blood and bodily fluids, and airborne diseases
  • Harmful plants
  • Animal droppings
  • Stinging insects
  • Mould and mildew
  • Sewage

Take a long, hard look around your workplace. What are the biological hazards that exist?

Who is at risk from the biological hazards?

Decide who may come into contact with the biological hazards you have identified. The involvement of employees is critical here – they know their jobs, working practices, procedures, and routines back to front. They will be able to help you identify all those at risk from biological hazards in the workplace.

You should consider who comes into contact with biological hazards. This includes contact with infected people, animals and environments that may pose a biological risk.

Also, consider environmental conditions that may cause or increase risks. For example, mould grows in places which are warm, damp, and provide ‘food’; Legionella thrives in cooling towers and stagnant water supplies.

Employees who work alone where biological hazards exist are more at risk, especially if they are working outside where biological risks are generally greater. Those who work alone may not be able to get help easily.

Evaluate the risks and produce precautions against biological hazards

Now that the risks have been fully identified and you have identified those at risk, you should assess the level of risk. Think about:

  • The regularity of work carried out that involves exposure to biological risk
  • Who is involved in the task
  • How much exposure there is to the biological hazard

Answering these considerations will enable you to put in place the necessary precautions to minimise risks from biological hazards.

How to control biological risks

Control of a biological hazard risk is accomplished in two ways:

1.      Process

By reviewing and updating processes, you can ensure that they follow best practice and reduce risks. Such processes may include:

  • Ensuring people take appropriate sick leave when they are ill
  • Reducing the amount of time that people spend exposed to biological hazards
  • Improving health and safety training around biological hazard issues

2.      Physical

Physical controls reduce risks from biological hazards in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Proper cleaning and sanitization
  • Pest prevention
  • Issuing appropriate PPE
  • Disposal of items that are a biological hazard

Record and review

Health and safety policy and procedures will continually evolve. Laws and regulations change, as does your business. Therefore, it’s important that you record your findings (it’s a legal requirement to do so if you have more than five employees) and review and update your risk assessment as the business environment evolves.

Would you like to know more about risk assessments, how to develop your health and safety policy, and how to put in place effective health and safety practices? For more information, contact Sentry today.

Cookie settings

We use cookies to help improve your experience with personalised content and tailored advertisements. You can control these by clicking 'Manage settings'.

Allow all Cookies Manage Setting