Biological Hazards...An Overview
Also known as biohazards, biological hazards in the work place include any living organism or substance produced by a living organism that can cause harm to human health. Whether you’re working in an office building, a downtown parking lot, a chemical plant or a woodland forest, biological hazards exist in every work place, regardless of location. While it is unlikely to ever work in an environment that is free from biological hazards, they are most prevalent in work places that involve people, unsanitary conditions, or wilderness areas. Examples of biological hazards include animals, birds, insects, plants and microorganisms.
Biological Hazards...Animals, Birds, Insects (and Humans)
In the “mobile creature” category, direct examples of biological hazards include physical harm from a bite, sting or scratch. Indirectly, contact with a mobile creature (or its blood, saliva or droppings) could result in the transfer of harmful microorganisms. A few examples of possible consequences that could result from a run in with a mobile creature includes skin rash, cuts, rabies and lime disease.
Biological Hazards...Plants and Mushrooms
Plants present a host of jobsite hazards in a variety of different ways. While everyone should know not to each wild plants or mushrooms on the jobsite, ingestion could result in tastiness, death and everything in between. Plants can also cause physical harm, such as cuts and abrasions from contact with thorns or bristles and trip hazards while walking through thick brush. Additionally, many people are susceptible to allergenic substances that exist in plants and pollen and defensive chemicals that induce rash or blisters, such as poison ivy.
Microorganisms are the most abundant living beings on earth. They include bacteria, viruses and fungi, among others. These tiny living creatures are generally not visible without a microscope, they are present on and in everything and are even airborne (i.e., airborne pathogens). While most microorganisms are not harmful (and in some cases, beneficial) to human health, certain microorganisms can cause a variety of health complications from direct contact (absorption), inhalation and/or ingestion. Examples of harmful bacteria includes salmonella and E. coli; examples of harmful viruses include influenza and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); examples of harmful fungi includes jock itch and black mold.