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Understanding the Levels of Biohazard Cleaning

hazmat cleanup

When you think of a biohazard, your mind likely automatically jumps to hazmat cleanup. While this certainly is the case for a good number of biohazards, they don’t necessarily all require hazmats. The CDC recognizes four different levels when it comes to biohazards. Each level escalates higher and has different requirements for safety. A professional who handles any type of hazardous cleanup should be certified to handle the task. 

In this guide, we will share some insight into the different levels of biohazards and just what is required to handle them. 

Biohazard Level 1 – No Hazmat Cleanup

Level one is the lowest level of hazard in these cases. This particular level does not typically require a hazmat setup when it comes to cleaning or handling. In general, level one includes viruses and bacteria that pose a lower risk. Things like E. coli and chickenpox are great examples. Yes, they can spread, but they are not deadly viruses in most cases. 

In the case of a level one hazard, the typical requirement for safety gear is just a face mask. There are also limitations to the contact you can have. Likely there will be gloves and special handling devices so that you aren’t coming into close contact with a possible virus or bacteria. The protective gear is not hazmat-level at this stage. 

Level 2

Level two slightly escalates the risk and the severity. This level takes into consideration microorganisms that can lead to infection. While the organisms can spread easily or cause infection, they spread primarily through something like bodily fluids. This is a moderate hazard, and any facility handling these hazards needs to have immediate handwashing and eye-washing stations available. In a lab, the doors should be self-closing. 

Common examples of level two hazards are things like Lyme disease, hepatitis A, B, or C, measles, mumps, HIV, dengue fever, and other similar illnesses. Personal protective equipment is required here, but it is not a full hazmat requirement. In this scenario, anyone handling materials needs to wear a gown, gloves, and facial protection. 

In level two, the face protection is more than just a mask. It should include full face protection, so it may be a mask and goggles or something like a face shield. 

Level 3

Level three builds on level two, increasing the threat and the safety requirements. Things that fall into level three are considered a high risk for serious or lethal diseases. The definition refers to this as microorganisms potentially lethal to humans. Viruses include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, malaria, viral encephalitis, anthrax, and more.

Here, you are going to use a modified version of a hazmat suit. This would include a bodysuit that protects the body. It also would include facial protection and a respirator. A lab that works with level three hazards is required to have a double set of self-closing doors that can be locked or restricted to prevent any possible spread of these diseases. 

The diseases in question at this stage are considered exotic or indigenous, and inhalation can cause infection. This is a very serious level that requires critical safety and work protocols. 

Level 4 – Hazmat Cleanup

Finally, level four is where you will find full hazmat gear required. This is the most hazardous level and requires the utmost care and safety. The CDC defines level four as microbes that could be fatal and have no vaccine or medical treatment available. The microbes are extremely hazardous and have been known to cause high levels of death. A good example of a level four exposure would be Ebola. 

When handling a level four hazard, the requirement is a full hazmat suit. This suit covers you from head to toe, effectively sealing you in. The suit has positive pressure and supplies air as well. When changing out of the suit, you should also shower prior to exiting the lab. 

When it comes to labs that handle level four research or viruses, they are often isolated. This helps prevent the risk of any sort of outbreak. The labs have specialized air ventilation systems and decontamination systems. 

Not All Biohazards Are in Labs

While the various biohazard levels are described according to a lab and what they might handle, it is important to recognize exposures happen outside of labs. When it comes to something like a crime scene, you typically have no way of knowing what you might be exposed to. This is why certain scenarios are considered biohazards and should be handled with the utmost caution and safety equipment. 

Call ONEighty Solutions for Your Hazmat Cleanup Needs

Whether you have a chemical spill, a potential infectious disease exposure, or some sort of trauma cleanup scene, we’re here to help. Our teams are certified to handle biohazard cleanup, including the use of hazmat suits. Contact us today for your cleanup needs. 

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