The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Identifying Biological Hazards

Jay Stansell - Saturday, April 23, 2011

Carrying on my series of blogs about the various types of hazards, this week I turn to biological sources of hazard.

Bio-hazards are defined as living things that have the capacity to cause unwanted harm.  It is “life” itself that provides the energy to living things.  Life is energy within the energy model of hazards. 

Bio-hazards can include micro-organisms such as bacteria or viruses (e.g., HIV, hepatitis, measles, mumps, and gastric viruses) that can result in severe harm. 

In a similar manner to hazardous substances, pathogenic micro-organisms can enter the human body by:

»            Inhalation (e.g., through breathing in air-borne virus particles such as the common cold);

»            Ingestion (e.g., through eating contaminated foodstuffs);

»            Absorption through open wounds; and

»            Injection (e.g., through contaminated surgical equipment).

Bio-hazards can also include larger forms of wild-life such as insects, birds, and animals (e.g., sharks, snakes, jellyfish and cane toads).  Bio-hazards can also include toxic or stinging plants (e.g., nettles or poison ivy) and poisonous fungi.

Whenever people are working with sewerage, medical waste and food sources, or with natural or organic materials like soil, clay, plant materials or substances of animal origin (fur, blood and other body fluids or excrement), they may be exposed to harmful biological agents.

Common incidents involving bio-hazards include:

»            Exposure to the bio-hazard (e.g., exposure to flu virus);

»            Animal attack (e.g., snake bite);

»            Contact with (e.g., touching a stinging plant); and

»            Bites and stings (e.g., bee sting).

Incidents involving bio-hazards can result in painful consequences to people and escalate from mild symptoms all the way to death.  The consequences can be severe!

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