Learn about the various types of biological hazards, their risk group classifications, and how to take proactive measures in biohazard risk management using a mobile app.
Updated 6 Feb 2023, Published 27 May 2022
Also referred to as biohazards, biological hazards come from any biological substances that pose risks or threats to the health of living organisms (mostly humans and animals). In the workplace, some employees are exposed to a great amount of biological agents. This highlights the employers’ responsibility to help educate workers about the various types of biological hazards, the risks associated with them, and how to proactively manage exposure through comprehensive risk assessment and management.
As one of the most common workplace hazards, biological hazards have the potential to harm and infect employees, most especially those who are directly exposed to them.
While most biohazards often come from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and molds or fungi, they are further grouped into 4 major types or categories, as discussed by Assurity Consulting:
Some biological hazard examples under this classification include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi (such as yeasts and molds). These are commonly considered harmless if kept under control, while some may cause serious risks and diseases to animal or humans like the COVID-19 virus.
These refer to a group of substances with a biological origin that are toxic and poisonous to humans. Often, biotoxins are produced by plants, bacteria, insects, or certain animals, among others. Continuous exposure to these may cause, at the very least, a series of inflammatory reactions throughout the body.
While blood isn’t considered a biological hazard, it can still bring potential risks if it’s contaminated or its source is in any way infected. Also, blood products such as red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, tissues, and platelets are also hazardous if not properly handled.
Generally, these refer to plants, soil, or water that potentially contain the first two types of biological hazards—biological agents and biotoxins.
To help organizations, Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) managers, and workers properly identify the potential threats or risks that the various types of biological hazards pose, a system of risk group classification for biological agents is established. Also, this system is used as a guide in implementing effective measures based on the degree of risk.
According to the World Health Organization’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual Fourth Edition, Risk Groups 1 to 4 pertain to the following:
Risk Group Classification of Biological Agents
In the workplace context, note that the system of classifying biological agents based on their risks considers the following factors:
The key to establishing an effective process of mitigating biohazard risks is being proactive in your systems and implementing the practice of safety culture in your organization.
Fortunately, innovative EHS software and mobile app solutions like SafetyCulture help employers and workers alike in taking action toward safety and quality in the workplace. Using SafetyCulture’s smart features, be empowered to do the following and more:
Check out these ready-to-use biohazard inspection checklists and templates you can download and customize for free:
Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.
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