Chapter 18: Biological hazards

Chapter 18: Biological Hazards


Biological hazards (biohazards) present the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professional with complex challenges. Many and varied biohazards may result from
workplace exposure to organisms, or substances produced by organisms, that threaten human health. Although workers in health and community care, and agricultural and
fishing occupations are at particular risk of exposure to hazardous biological agents, all workplaces harbour the potential for various forms of biohazard exposure, including
person-to-person transmission of infectious disease.

While prevention and management of biohazards is often the responsibility of occupational or public health personnel, the generalist OHS professional should have an understanding of biohazards and their mechanisms of action, and the importance of vigilance and standard control measures. Armed with this knowledge, the generalist OHS professional can work with occupational health personnel to develop and implement biohazard prevention and mitigation strategies. .

Keywords: biological hazard, biohazard, infection, vector

First year of publication: 2012
Current Version : 2012


We realise that this topic is of special interest at this time. The chapter is being reviewed to ensure that it provides an overview of all biological hazards that generalist OHS professionals may be called upon to manage.

Chapter 18: Biological Hazards

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2 Extent of the problem
3 Understanding biohazards
3.1 The nature of biohazards
3.2 Classification by type of agent
3.3 Mode of transmission
3.4 Virulence and infectivity
4 Occupational factors affecting impact of biohazards
4.1 Type of occupation
4.2 Location and environment
5 Legislation and guidance
6 Control of biological hazards
7 Implications for OHS practice
8 Summary
Useful sources
Appendix 1: Definitions
Appendix 2: Summary of infective agents

LtCol Geoff Newman-Martin CSM, RFD, BSc, FRACI, CChem, FACTM (RAAMC RETD)
Scientific Adviser Toxinology and Toxicology, Defence Centre for Occupational Health, Department of Defence, Canberra; Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health, University of Queensland

Geoff is an organic chemist, toxicologist and toxinologist who has worked in scientific roles in the then Commonwealth Department of Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and the Department of Defence Centre for Occupational Health. He is the author of a three-volume medicoscientific textbook Manual of Envenomation and Poisoning – Australian Fauna and Flora, published by the Defence Publishing Service in 2007. He is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health, University of Queensland, and an occasional faculty member for the Clinical Toxinology Course conducted by the Department of Health Sciences, University of Adelaide. Geoff was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal in 1998 for his work in toxicology and medical entomology.

Peer reviewers

Dr Robert McCartney MBBS, FAFOEM(RACP)
Occupational Physician, OccMD Pty Ltd President, Australian & New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM)

Dr David Goddard MBBS, BmedSc, DipOccHealth, GCert Higher EdFAFOEM,
RACP Senior Lecturer, Monash Centre for Occupational & Environmental Health (MonCOEH)

The OHS Body of Knowledge takes a conceptual approach which enables it to be applied in different contexts and frameworks.
To optimise its value for education and professional development learning outcomes have been developed for each technical chapter in the Body of Knowledge.
The learning outcomes as described give an indication of what should be the capabilities of an OHS professional; it is up to those developing OHS education programs, OHS professionals planning their CPD or recruiters or employers selecting or developing people for the OHS function to consider the required breadth vs. depth .
Please read the section on using the learning outcomes before delving into the leaning outcomes of the individual chapters.
The numbers against each learning outcome refer to the chapter number of the BOK download page. No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, .13, 14, 15.)

AIHS Webinar: Biological Safety


Date: 2019
Dr. Amanda Jones

This webinar discusses the basics of biosafety and why biological risk management is important.  It looks at some obvious and not so obvious situations where biosafety needs to be considered and some key ways to manage biosafety that all safety professionals and practitioners can employ.