Biological Hazards

Biological Hazards

There are 200 biological hazards that can affect workers health in diverse work environments that involve working with other people (example: health care, child care, first aiders), working with animals or plants, unsanitary conditions, in laboratories and/or in the environment.

A biological hazard, also identified as biohazards, is the exposure to elements like bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites or toxins, including genetically modified that may exist in several professional sectors.

They are classified in four risk levels according to the contagious risk:

Biological Risks have

multiple causes

Like natural materials, substances of animal origin, organic dust, waste, waste water, blood and other body fluids or tissues, insect bites, parasites.

and have multiple


Spread and/or contamination of/with virus and bacteria, fungi and mold, blood-born infections

Vector-born diseases

New viral and/or re-emerging bacterial infections (new microbial hazards)

common symptoms / injuries can be:

Bacterial infections (such as Hepatitis A, Tuberculosis, Salmonella), viral infections (such as HIV, Rotavirus, West Nile Virus), fungal infections (such as Ringworm), allergies caused by exposure to mould, mites and enzymes, poisoning or toxic effects

Safety Wear:

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  • Gloves

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  • Eye protection

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  • Lab coats

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  • Masks

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  • Respirators

There are a few compulsory measures when working with biological agents:


Prevent eating and drinking in zones of risk contamination


Supply the employees with protection clothes and special wearing


Provide employees with appropriate sanitary and hygiene means, which may include eye drops and/or skin antiseptics


Assure that every protection equipment is properly stored, always cleaned and repaired/replaced if defective


Define collection, manipulation and treatment processes for human or animal samples

  • Food zoonoses:
  • Are caused by consuming food or water contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms. There more than 200 known diseases transmitted through food. The most common microorganisms are Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter.

  • How food becomes contaminated?
  • Food can become contaminated at different stages in the food chain: at the farm, during slaughter, during processing and/or in the kitchen.

Biohazard waste, your health and the environment:

Biohazard waste has negative effects on the environment, affecting not only humans but also nature and animals. Improper waste disposal and sorting can contaminate soils and local groundwater and can even compromise landfill work.
As you may have already noticed, in hospitals health care workers are particularly aware of biological waste sorting, adhering to specific rules in their daily work routine.
You too should be aware of preventive actions concerning biohazard waste disposal, namely by handling and sorting unwanted/expired medications properly.

New Biohazards:

In the last few years have emerged new biological hazards, associated with processes like globalization or climate changing. These are:

Growing international travelling and extensive overseas travelling contributes to the rapid spread of contaminants. Increasing mobility is also related to new microbiological hazards that affect health care workers in particular.

Misuse of antimicrobials in humans and food-producing animals can lead to more resistant bacteria. The resistant bacteria can be transmitted between animals, humans and the environment. They can also be found in food (meat, dairy products and eggs). Antimicrobial resistance leads to the difficulty to treat diseases.

Recent research indicates that Climate Change affects OSH. However, there are many questions to answer related to specific hazards, risk assessment and preventive actions. Concerning OSH, there are groups of exposures and hazards already identified, given that workers can be directly and indirectly affected. Direct effects include heat waves, extreme weather events and UV radiation. Indirectly, climate change is worsened by air pollution and increases rates of infectious diseases transmission, such as vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.

Growing of global trade driven by globalization does not only impacts on the production systems but also on the working conditions and global trade processes require a closer look at the ethics work, namely certifying skilled human resources in OSH and assuring protection of human rights, particularly in developing countries.

The problem is associated with misuse of antimicrobials (such as antibiotics) in people and animals.

Modern agriculture practices are characterized by the excessive use of antimicrobials to prevent diseases in farm animals or as growth promoters. According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), alternative farming systems should be explored to improve animals’ health and welfare (prebiotics, probiotics, bacteriophages and organic acids).

Regarding humans, excessive use and misuse of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as flu and colds leads to bacteria resistance. As a result, infections persist and spread because medicines are ineffective.

Welcome to the Bio Lab!

Now it’s time to practice and learn about viruses and bacteria, about food safety and health. You will explore the “Nurse Dilemma” in a thinking and acting challenge. Ready?