Biohazards: Safety Topics - October 2018 - Week 4


Biological Hazards are defined differently in Canada and Europe than they are in the United States. In the U.S., Biological Hazards are defined as hazards coming from a living biological source. Snake venom would be an example. They are governed by the National Institute of for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

In Canada and Europe, Biological Hazards are not only biological sources, but also diseases, chemicals and toxins that can hurt a biological subject. The emphasis in “Biological” is on the subject not the source.

This week, if you are in the U.S., pretend you live in Canada and Europe. Looking at safety from a different perspective improves safety awareness and helps you better protect your fellow colleagues and your family at home.

Monday: Biological Hazards

Biohazards threaten the health of living organisms. Types of biohazards are bacteria, viruses, medical waste, and other toxins. These hazards can vary in the severity of contamination and need to be handled, stored, and disposed of according to safety regulations.

There are 4 levels of control for a biohazardous material:

Level 1 (BSL-1)

This type of biohazard does not typically cause disease or sickness. These are usually due to having a weak immune system and can be controlled by wearing gloves and a face mask.

Level 2 (BSL-2)

These are hazards that can cause disease and sickness in humans but are not transmitted by inhalation. Cuts, abrasions, and ingestion can cause infection. HIV, Hepatitis B, and salmonella belong in this category. These areas require a warning WHMIS symbol and must be restricted areas.

Level 3 (BSL-3)

These hazards are serious and life threating. If airborne, infection can occur without direct contact.

Level 4 (B LS-4)

This level is used to classify a pathogen that results in a high death rate. These diseases generally untreatable as there are no known vaccines or treatments. An example is the Marburg Virus. When working with this level of biohazard, workers should wear a full-bodied pressure suit and have an air supply. Workers must shower before leaving the area.

Tuesday – WHMIS Symbols for Class D: Poisonous and Infections Material

Division 1: Materials Causing Immediate and Serious Toxic Effects

  • Poisonous substance
  • Single exposure may be fatal or cause permanent health damage
  • Ex: Carbon Monoxide, Sodium Cyanide, Sulfuric Acid, and Toluene 2

These materials create immediate dangers to life and health. They can cause burns, loss of consciousness, coma, and/or death in a matter of minutes to hours. They have long term effects to health and some may even go unnoticed for years.

Wednesday – WHMIS Symbols for Class D: Poisonous and Infections Material (Cont.)

Division 2: Materials Causing Other Toxic Effects

  • May be a poisonous substance and cause irritation.
  • Repeated exposure may cause cancer, birth defects, or other permanent damage.
  • Ex: Asbestos fibers, mercury, benzene quartz silica, silica dust, and lead.

These materials are poisonous and the effects may not always be immediate or permanent. Some do have long term health issues and may cause cancer, reproductive problems, genetic problems, and allergies.

This division can have two classes: D2A (very toxic) and D2B (toxic).

If you are unsure if a substance is toxic or contains toxic ingredients, look for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Ask your safety representative, and consult an MSDS database such as

Thursday – WHMIS Symbols for Class D: Poisonous and Infections Material (Cont.)

Division 3: Biohazardous Infectious Material

  • May cause disease or serious illness.
  • Drastic exposure may result in death.
  • Ex: AIDS/HIV, Hepatitis B, and salmonella.

This type of material is an organism that causes disease in people and in animals or through the toxins they produce. They live in body tissue or fluids such as blood and urine. PPE should always be used if contact with another’s body tissue or fluids is a potential risk.

Friday: Free Speech Friday

What type of biohazards might you come across at your worksite? Do you have the proper PPE to protect against these hazards? Do you know how to properly handle and dispose of these hazards?

If your location is in Canada, now is a good time to ensure you have done your WHMIS re-certification. Make sure your WHMIS training is up to date. For more information, contact for more information or talk to your local safety representative.

Tags: safety topics , industrial hygiene , osha compliance ,

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