Does Your OHS Policy Adequately Address Biohazards?
Employees in a number of different industries can be vulnerable to being exposed to biohazards in the workplace. As part of your overall Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Policy, the use of a commercial cleaning
company can assist in minimising the threat of biohazard exposure.
What are biohazards?
A biohazard is organic matter that poses a danger to humans. Biohazards can include toxins, viruses and transmitters of disease such as blood, or insects. Safe Work Australia’s National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance report found that the most common biohazard workers are exposed to is human bodily matter, at 75 per cent. Other biohazards that may pose a threat to workers in different industries include animal products, live animals, sewerage, rubbish, and laboratory cultures.
Direct versus indirect contact
Employees can be exposed to biohazards either directly or indirectly. Direct means there is physical contact between the affected worker and an infected person. Indirect translates to an employee becoming infected via airborne transmission, food or water-borne toxins, or through contact with a contaminated surface. Medical workers have the highest risk of developing an illness through direct contact with a biohazard. Commercial cleaning services are important to help reduce the risk of employees coming into indirect contact with a biohazard.
There are five biohazard control-measure categories – protective clothing, warnings, engineering, waste disposal and training. Of these five categories, the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance report discovered that Australian workplaces are most likely to provide employees exposed to biohazards with protective clothing, and are least likely to provide training.
Is your workplace safe?
Every workplace needs to have an Occupational Health and Safety Policy that correctly addresses the risk of any biohazards that may pose a threat to employees. The designated OHS professional in your workplace must ensure that appropriate research is undertaken to identify any biohazard risks, as each office and environment is different.
Commercial cleaning is a key part of biohazard protection
In a paper entitled OHS Body of Knowledge: Biological Hazards, Lt Col Geoffrey Newman-Martin suggests that biohazard control requires “a systematic, analytical application of a hierarchy of control that takes account of the nature of biohazard agent, the workplace, the nature of the work and the workers.”
Ensure that you have a commercial cleaning service in place that can efficiently address biohazards before they affect you and your colleagues.