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Biological hazards

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Biological hazards are organic substances that present a threat to the health of people and other living organisms.

Types of biological hazards

Biological hazards include:

  • viruses
  • toxins from biological sources
  • spores
  • fungi
  • pathogenic micro-organisms
  • bio-active substances.

Worldwide, around 320,000 workers die each year from communicable diseases caused by work-related exposure to biological hazards (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work).

Risks from biological hazards

Biological hazards pose risks for many workers. The risk of exposure is not always obvious.

Safe Work Australia provides practical advice to help you identify and manage biological hazards:

Animals and animal products

People who work with live animals or animal products, such as blood, tissue, milk and eggs, are exposed to animal diseases and infections.

Some of these can infect people, like avian flu or Hendra virus, or cause serious allergy from being sensitised.

Human bodily matter

Workers in health care may be exposed to biological hazards through contact with human bodily matter, such as blood, tissue, saliva, mucus, urine and faeces.

These substances have a high risk of containing viral or bacterial diseases.

Moulds and yeasts

In some industries, exposure to moulds and yeasts is common. This is the case in workplaces with air conditioning systems and high humidity, and in the construction industry.

Organic material

In the work environment, people may be exposed to rubbish, waste water and sewerage, plant materials, organic dusts and food.

Page last reviewed: 08 October 2020
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Date printed 31 Oct 2020