Control measure knowledge

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.

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/isolation, PPE that provides protection from injection should be considered.

For decontamination procedures see National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure crews are aware of the risks presented by the presence of biological hazards and understand the associated safe systems of work
  • Have suitable clinical waste disposal procedures, including use of sharps containers

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider handing responsibility for the incident to another agency (e.g. police or an environmental agency)
  • Seek advice from on-site specialist or a hazardous materials adviser (HMA)
  • Instigate and communicate hygiene arrangements, facilities and consider decontamination

  • Consider decontamination following exposure of crews to biological hazards
  • Consider the risk of exposure to contaminated sharps, especially in high risk environments
  • Comply with hygiene arrangements and don't eat, drink or smoke

  • Identify potential sources of biological contamination (e.g. waste from sanitary conveniences)

All personnel should:
  • Declare to the service or incident commander any allergies that could give rise to anaphylactic shock
  • Ensure open wounds, cuts and grazes are covered by a waterproof dressing