Posted on: February 17, 2023

Biological Hazard: Examples of Biohazards & How to Prevent Them

how to prevent biohazards

What is a Biological Hazard?

Biological hazards are any substances that threaten the health of living organisms. They are sometimes shortened to "biohazards" for convenience.

In workplace safety circles, we're concerned explicitly by threats to human health and safety.

The key to distinguishing a biological hazard from other risks is the threat from a biological source, as opposed to something like a chemical hazard, which can be manufactured or exist in the environment.

Types of Biological Hazards

There are many different examples of biological hazards, but they can be easier to tackle if you consider the hazards by type instead.

Most biohazard examples boil down to a specific biological material bad for your health – typically either a biological agent or a biotoxin.

But these primary sources are often invisible to the naked eye, so most of what we consider "biohazardous material" in the workplace is something that may or may not contain one of those primary threats.

Biological Agents

A biological agent typically refers to an organism that can directly cause human disease, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi (like mold).


A biotoxin is a toxic or poisonous substance with a biological origin. Plants, bacteria, insects, or animals can produce biotoxins. Biotoxins can persist in the environment even after the living thing that created them has died.

Human Blood, Blood Products, and Sharps

Blood isn't inherently dangerous to human life or health, but it can contain a biological agent that does.

Many serious diseases are transmitted through the blood, so blood components and biological materials containing human blood are handled strictly. So are potential vectors of blood-to-blood transmission like needles and other "sharps."

Other Human Bodily Matter

Blood isn't the only bodily material or fluid that can transmit disease – other bodily substances can also be hazardous to human health.

Animal Waste and Products

Even though human blood and body fluids pose the most significant risk to workers' health, some animal diseases are also transmissible to humans.

Organic Matter

Organic material is any substance that used to be a living thing or was produced by a living thing.

Biting or Stinging Insects

Outdoor workers (and even some indoor workers) can be at risk of biting or stinging insects found in the area. The health effects can run from the mild discomfort of the bite itself, inherently toxic insect venom, the risk of an allergic reaction, or the insect's role as a disease vector.

What is an Example of a Biological Hazard in Each Category?

Knowing different biohazard examples can help you identify workers who may be at risk. While you'll probably think of medical personnel, research labs, and first responders as being at risk of biohazard exposure, many industries are affected, including agriculture, forestry, food production, libraries/museums, and more.

Examples of Hazardous Biological Agents

There are almost too many biohazard examples to name in the biological agent category.

The big examples of workplace biological hazards in the workplace include:

  • Medical or clinical staff at risk of bloodborne pathogens like HIV
  • Workers at risk of environmental pathogens like mold or Legionnaires' Disease
  • First responders or researchers at risk of weaponized biological agents like anthrax
  • Anyone who may be exposed to people with infectious diseases like COVID-19

Is hepatitis a biological hazard? Yes – all three kinds. Hepatitis A is primarily foodborne, and Hep B and C are bloodborne.

Examples of Hazardous Biotoxins

Snake venom is an example of a biological hazard that's a biotoxin, as is botulism (produced by botulinum bacteria) or ricin (produced by plants).

Many biotoxins have been weaponized, as well as being naturally occurring.

Examples of Hazardous Human Blood, Blood Products, and Sharps

Biohazard examples in this category include blood, plasma, serum, white blood cells, platelets, and pathological samples like human tissue (which contains blood).

In the context of a biological hazard, "sharps" usually refer to used needles, scalpels, and other cutting or pricking instruments.

Examples of Hazardous Human Bodily Matter

Examples of biological hazards in this category include saliva, urine, mucus, vomit, and feces. Medical personnel are obviously at risk from these hazards, as are janitorial staff, cleaning staff, childcare workers, and more.

Examples of Hazardous Animal Waste and Animal Products

If you follow the news, an obvious example of a biological hazard in this category is a farm worker or slaughterhouse employee at risk of avian flu. Many food and farm workers are exposed to potential biohazards due to their handling of animal products or waste, from raw milk to soiled straw bedding.

However, many different workplaces could include exposure to rodent or bird droppings, which are also a hazard.

Examples of Hazardous Organic Matter

Examples of biological hazards in this category include garbage, wastewater, sewage, plant material, and organic dust.

Environmental samples, like soil or pond water, will also contain organic matter.

Examples of Hazardous Biting or Stinging Insects

Biohazard examples in this category include bees, wasps, scorpions, spiders, and fire ants.

How to Prevent Biological Hazards

Biological hazard prevention isn't easy to sum up in a few paragraphs.

There are many different types of biohazards with various prevention and mitigation methods. Each biological hazard will have engineering controls (like regular cleaning, pest prevention, waste disposal, or PPE requirements) and administrative controls (like handwashing facilities, sick leave, vaccine requirements, and training).

Plus, the biological hazard prevention measures that are effective for one task may not be effective for another.

That's why hazard-specific training is a vital part of the solution.

As an OSHA-authorized online training provider, we have a complete catalog of regulatory safety training related to biological hazard prevention and mitigation – from OSHA bloodborne pathogen courses to NAMP mold inspector and remediator certification.

Enroll in the training you need today to get started!