There will come a time when your commercial cleaning business is contacted by a potential client who needs you to take on a not-so-general cleaning operation.
There has been an incident and there are biohazardous substances involved, likely including human waste or bodily fluids.
It's a job nobody really wants, but how you handle it is extremely important.
But first, what is a biohazard?
A biological hazard is any biological material that presents a threat to human health. There are low-level and high-level biohazards.
Biological hazards can include:
other bodily fluids,
tissues that contain blood,
materials - typically bedding - that are known to be infected,
animal corpses or body parts,
Low-level biohazards are more common and pose only a minimal threat to human health and that of the environment. They're generally fairly easy to deal with and include chicken pox, e-coli, and canine hepatisis.
High-level biohazards are less common but far more dangerous. They typically require more protective equipment to be worn due to their highly infectious nature and are far more difficult to clean up.
These types of hazards can cause very severe illness and death and include the virus' and diseases HIV, hepatitis B and C, and salmonella. They're typically transmitted through direct contact with any biohazardous materials.
Biological hazards pose a serious risk to human health and it's important that you and your cleaning team are properly trained to deal with them.
It's not just a case of quickly containing the fluids and mopping them up.
These types of substances are harmful to health, the environment, or both. Clean up operations involving human or hazardous waste require careful planning, execution, and protection for your cleaners.
Your team isn't only responsible for cleaning up the hazard, but also ensuring, through thorough decontamination of the area, that there is no risk of illness spreading and that it is safely disposed of.
Not to mention that businesses around the world are realising that they're morally and ethically obligated to ensure human or hazardous waste is disposed of as safely as possible.
What to check before cleaning biohazardous waste
Your cleaning equipment Cleaning sites of biohazardous waste generally requires a deep, thorough cleansing of every area affected by hazardous substances. Ensure your cleaning chemicals and equipment are up for the job.
Your personal protective equipment Biohazardous waste is dangerous to both human health and the environment. Ensure you obtain the correct PPE for your cleaners before they start their work. It will protect them from exposure to diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
Improper disposal techniques People are at far greater risk of coming to harm if your disposal procedures are insufficient. This biohazardous waste is likely to contain harmful organisms that may infect other employees or the general public. Improper disposal could potentially release a disease that most people aren't equipped to control. A drug-resistant disease, for instance.
Always check your biohazard disposal procedures before beginning the disposal process.
The general procedure for cleaning biohazardous waste
Before you begin, ensure that everyone you're working with is properly trained. Not only in general biohazard disposal, but also to any local safety controls that may be in place. Your client may be obligated to uphold certain safety procedures, which you must follow too.
Ensure everybody is wearing adequate personal protective equipment. Physical contact with an infectious virus or disease is one of the most common methods of passing it on. Cover your whole body if possible. This is very important if you're wounded anywhere. Don't ignore the little cuts, either. Any open wound is enough for an infection to enter your body.
Ensure your cleaners take special care with high-touch areas. Your hands are covered in millions upon millions of tiny bacteria which are easily passed on to others. Any they pick many more millions as you work. Not only through physical human contact, but also through contact with an inert object. Usually objects including door handles, or phone receivers. These are high-touch areas.
Instill in your employees the need to follow tried and tested cleaning procedures. Infectious substances can stick around for a few days, usually, and a quick wipe with your cleaning cloth isn't going to get rid of it. Areas being cleaned for biohazardous waste needs to be completely disinfected to ensure no infectious virus or disease does not spread.
Ensure you fully isolate the area and use cleaning equipment and chemicals that are specifically for cleaning biohazards. Once the job is done, make sure that you and your cleaners are correctly disposing of the biohazardous waste and any PPE which cannot be decontaminated.
Always sanitise your hands when you're finished.
Ensure your cleaning team follow your specific procedures for transporting, removing, or destroying biohazardous waste.
Take into account everywhere and everything you need to store or transport the substance.
Dispose of the biohazardous waste in a container designed for the purpose. For example, a UN-approved sealable, bio-waste bag.
Ensure your bio-waste bag is the correct colour and contains all of the correct warnings and symbols.
Minimise any contact with the biohazardous substance, and get it into a sealable container as fast as possible.
Ensure your containers are sturdy and puncture-resistant. This will reduce the risk of the container breaking and releasing an infection or disease.
Be sure to separate the non-disposable biohazardous materials and transport them safely. Ensure they are properly sterilised and decontaminated by following local guidelines.
Ensure the biohazardous materials are stored and controlled adequately while waiting for local authorities to collect and remove it.
It's very important that you follow procedures to the letter when dealing with biohazardous substances. Your aim is to minimise direct contact as much as possible in order to stop the spread of infection disease.
Learn the ins and out of COSHH assessments and your responsibilities under the regulations. Take the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™. It's free and is designed to teach you more than the theory of risk assessment.