When the presence of biological hazards at an incident has been identified as a risk the incident commander should consider requesting expert advice from Hazardous Materials Adviser (HMA) and reclassifying the incident as hazardous materials. Where minor risks can be isolated from crews or other measures implemented that adequately control the risk other operational activities may be conducted safely.
Whenever possible unnecessary contact with biological hazards should be avoided and clinical waste storage and transportation arrangements should be considered for contaminated clothing and equipment.
Routes of exposure should be considered when identifying control measures:
- Inhalation: Establishing good ventilation and selecting respiratory protective equipment appropriate to the hazard are key control measures.
- Absorption: Avoid skin contact with the hazard and wear PPE that prevents contact including protective gloves (first aid type) and eye protection. Strict hygiene procedures should be established including welfare facilities, antibacterial wash or wipes.
- Ingestion: In areas of likely contamination the risk of ingestion can be reduced through the avoidance of eating, drinking and smoking.
- Injection: Exposure can occur when a sharp object punctures the skin; this could be a rusty nail, a discarded hypodermic needle or an animal sting. Where exposure cannot be avoided by reduction or isolation, PPE that provides protection from injection should be considered.
For decontamination procedures see National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials.