Biohazards, such as bodily fluids, blood, and faeces, can spread viruses and pose a serious health threat. Following an incident involving any hazardous chemicals or waste, proper decontamination and clean up is crucial to help mitigate the risk of infection and hazards to health.
But what is a biohazard and when should you be seeking professional help?
Any biological materials (microorganisms, viruses, plants, animals, or their byproducts) that represent a threat to the health of living organisms are referred to as biohazards. Human bodily fluids, animal faeces, laboratory waste, and other contaminants are among them.
Some biohazards are far more dangerous than others. Bloodborne pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and rickettsia can be found in blood, body fluids, and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Tuberculosis, E. coli, borreliosis (Lyme sickness), and salmonella are all diseases caused by these organisms. Other common biohazards, such as faeces, urine, nasal secretions, perspiration, sputum, and vomit, are also considered potentially infectious.
Is a biohazard cleanup a legal requirement?
In many cases, the answer is yes – correctly cleaning up a biohazard is a legal requirement.
Typically where the situation occurs in a commercial or public environment, the decontamination and clean up is a legal requirement of the entity responsible for managing that environment.
In a work setting, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, having the proper process for cleaning bodily fluids is a legal obligation. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees’ health and safety, as well as the health and safety of anybody else on the premises.
As part of their health and safety plan, employers must also have a system in place for reporting a biohazard occurrence. This strategy should assess the risk of illness as a result of exposure and outline the company’s disinfection procedure for the contaminated location. The person in charge of the premises is responsible for organising the clean-up following a biohazard occurrence. Blood, urine, vomit, and human faeces can seep into porous materials and regions that are not visible to the untrained eye if left neglected. Cleaning using typical cleaning methods can be tough as a result. If professional deep cleaning and disinfection is not performed, the danger of exposure and infection is substantially higher.
In these instances, it’s important to seek professional advice and use a specialist cleaner who will disinfect the space quickly and effectively, then safely dispose of hazardous material.
As Graham Hickman, specialist biohazard cleaning services provider from Complete Environmental Services explains, “No two biohazard call outs are the same and our technicians are experienced in all facets of specialist cleaning such as biohazard decontamination and waste removal. We’ve cleaned up medical waste that literally fell off the back of a lorry, cleared drug dens, helped resolve instances of hoarding, cleaned up after a suicide in a hotel and attend road traffic accidents. Experience counts, following a strict process is essential and having a cast iron stomach helps get the job done – whatever that job is.”
Different types of biohazard situations
Biohazards frequently provide problems that are not visible to the naked eye. Blood spills are a common biohazard because bloodborne diseases such as MRSA, HIV, and the Hepatitis B and C viruses can all be present and spread through blood. This begs the question: when do I require the services of a biohazard specialist? When will I be able to clean something on my own?
In some cases, biohazard cleanup specialists are required to take the lead in cleaning biological contamination in a specific location – and some of them may surprise you. Biohazard cleaning entails more than just picking up a mop and bucket; it’s a meticulously planned and regulated series of activities that necessitate specific engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), and thorough training to safeguard humans from infectious pathogens.
Here are some common scenarios in which a biohazard remediation specialist is needed:
Blood or other bodily fluids: Getting a paper cut or nicking your finger while cooking does not qualify as a biohazard cleanup. Unless the amount of blood is enormous, for example, where the pool of blood is larger than the size of a dinner plate, a specialist is usually not required. This is frequently the case in cases involving catastrophic events such as homicides, suicides, or home or workplace accidents.
Hoarding: Hoarding is defined as when a person accumulates an excessive number of objects and keeps them in an unorganised manner, resulting in unmanageable clutter. The objects may or may not be of monetary value. Animal faeces accumulation is quite typical, especially in incidents of domestic hoarding, where pets or rats and mice have been living amongst the filth.
Waste from animals: When animal carcasses, faeces, or other biological waste amass in one location, it poses a major health risk to everyone nearby. In these conditions, harmful viruses and other viral organisms thrive. Animal faeces accumulation is quite typical, especially where waste has not been correctly removed from a site and vermin such as rodents have taken to feeding at the site. Typically, any space where the public convenes will attract pigeons, seagulls, rats and mice due to discarded litter. For example – seaside beaches attract large volumes of tourists in the summer and whilst the local authority may be prepared to regularly clean the area, just one unforeseen hot weekend can bring tens of thousands of visitors which can overwhelm the cleaners.
Graham Hickman agrees, “Back in June 2020, when foreign holidays were banned due to the pandemic, seaside councils across the country seriously struggled to manage the unexpected high amounts of waste from thousands of beach goers. And it wasn’t just standard litter. There were used sanitary products, used nappies and instances where people had simply defecated on the beach, which in turn attracted animals and an increase in their waste. There were also instances of drug use and drug paraphernalia littering the beach. For example, Bournemouth’s seven long miles of golden sands basically turned into a biohazard nightmare for the local authority BCP. Clearly it was an exceptional time, but it clearly highlights the challenges for councils managing public services. There’s a need to have additional support from reactive and agile biohazard cleaning contractors. The real problem highlighted here is that by its nature, many incidents requiring biohazard cleanups occur sporadically and it’s very difficult all round attempting to plan for these requirements.”