Posted on

Biological risk – How to prevent contracting infection

Starting from the assumption that all biological substances are potentially harmful and that contamination is almost always the result of a human error, Safety at Work legislation has introduced the obligation of special preventive measures to protect against biological hazards and infectious diseases at the workplace.

High biological hazard jobs and consequences of direct or involuntary contact with free bacteria

Some industrial sectors have deliberately introduced the analysis of biological agents at the workplace in order to voluntarily exploit their properties. Therefore, biological risk is a constant of the production process in analysis and health care laboratories – this, notwithstanding mandatory hygiene and disinfection policies. We speak of indirect biological hazard when the pathogen is not directly introduced into the active cycle, but contact is inevitable even if undesirable, e.g. in hospitals, in local health care centres as well as in veterinary surgeries, on agricultural and livestock farms and in the food industries, in fact, the risk of involuntary exposure to microorganisms is high even if the organic substances that contain them are not manipulated directly. These microorganisms are usually airborne or in the form of droplets (which are disseminated and spread through coughing and sneezing), by direct contact, by exposure to biological fluids and the resulting infectious diseases can be grouped together as follows:

  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C caused by two different viruses;
  • Tuberculosis: a bacterial infection that generally affects the lungs, but also other organs (e.g. kidneys, skin);
  • HIV virus, the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS);
  • Other infections such as meningitis, cytomegalovirus, chickenpox, some intestinal infections, influenza viruses and pest infestations (lice, scabies);
  • Connatural infections (Rubella, Toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus).

How to protect oneself from biological hazards?

Starting from the assumption that all biological material is potentially harmful and that contamination is almost always the result of human error, current Occupational Health and Safety Laws have introduced the obligation of special preventive measures, named second-level containment (Art .275, para. 3, Legislative Decree 81/08), for protection against biological hazards and infectious diseases of people who are exposed to these substances at the workplace. As a first preventive measure,  legislation introduced standardised procedures, staff training specifications and prescribed the diffusion of information on possible hazards, workers’ behaviour, prevention, hygiene and procedures in case of injury or accidents. Secondly, the supply of suitable protective equipment and the prophylaxis to be followed by workers. In addition, the optimization and the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of the equipment used for the processing, analysis and storage of potentially harmful substances. The host environment must be kept clean and free from any instrument or tool that is not closely related to the activity at hand, sealed containers for the collection of infected waste must always be close by. Equipment used in hazardous areas must not be taken into risk free areas. In particular, only authorised personnel wearing the prescribed protective clothing may be allowed access into places exposed to pathogens. All work garments and equipment i.e. protective suits or gowns, gloves, headgear, shoe covers, masks, eyewear and respiratory protective devices should be removed at the end of each shift to avoid contamination of the skin.

KASCO srl supplies various types of respiratory protective devices for protection against biological hazards, such as the  K80E T8X powered respirators  which provide complete protection of the head, face, neck and ears. Both models are equipped with an audible alarm which signals imminent battery discharge and / or filter clogging.