Write an essay critically appraising the general principles of Occupational Health and Hygiene (Anticipating, Recognizing, Evaluating, Controlling and Monitoring) (ARMEC) as they relate to a workplace Biological Hazardous Agent (one Biological agent). This should include the role of the team led approach to explore the occupational standards including Working Exposure Limit (WELs); and the mechanisms for monitoring, at the personal, or locational level; and the role of toxicological and epidemiological data sets in developing standards.
NOTES / CRITERIA
- The essay should be critical in nature and written in the context of a workplace environment.
- The general principles of Occupational Health and Hygiene (Anticipating, Recognizing, Evaluating, Controlling and Monitoring) (ARMEC) should be evaluated and critically appraised.
- The appraisal has been underpinned with a suitable range of legal, technical and theoretical knowledge from a range of sources i.e. exploring ARMREC very well e.g. anticipating what might alter risk, recognition which might include walking and talking tours, measurement which may need to provide details of specific measurement approach and Evaluation which needs to look at specific standards and how these are derived. I.e. where is the evidence that the standards rely on.
- Suitable and sufficient conclusion to the essay has been provided i.e. Conclusion needs to be about Occupational Hygiene as a repeatable method and how it fits to PDCA.
- (If applicable) appendix material is relevant and supportive to the essay.
Bacillus anthracis (BA), which causes anthrax, is a good example of a workplace biological hazardous agent. Often, workers become exposed by handling animal products that are infected, inhaling spores produced by BA in contaminated animal products. Bacillus anthracis (BA) is generally dangerous as it produces dormant spores, that is, they can survive for several years even when they are exposed to extreme conditions of very hot or cold temperatures, radiation, chemicals, dry environments, or any other destructive forces. Contact to Bacillus anthracis’ spores causes severe infection in human beings. Despite anthrax being a serious disease, it is not as contagious as flu or cold. Silvestri and Griffin (2017) notes that due to the severe nature of Bacillus anthracis infection to both humans and animals, it can be used as a biological weapon. Various workers such as remediation workers or laboratory technicians are at increased risk of being infected with Bacillus anthracis. Remediation workers in particular take part in clean up and decontamination procedures where they are highly likely to be exposed to the bacterial spores (Cote, Heffron, Bozue, & Welkos 2015). It is for this reason that general principles of Occupational Health and Hygiene towards Bacillus anthracis have been developed to offer medical protection to both current and future workers. This paper is going to provide a detailed analysis regarding Bacillus anthracis’ general principles of Occupational Health and Hygiene of Anticipating, Recognizing, Evaluating, Controlling and Monitoring (ARMEC).
According to Brooks and McGregor (2018), one of the primary causes of workplace injuries, incidents as well as illnesses is failure of workers to identify and recognize the various workplace hazards that are anticipated or could be present. It is of great importance to acknowledge that one of the vital elements of effective safety and health programs is establishing proactive, continuous processes for identifying and assessing workplace hazards. With regards to Bacillus anthracis, anticipation involves establishing different zones depending on the likely risks of exposure. The zones are classified into three colors; green, yellow, and the red zone.
The green zone represents workplaces where chances of contamination by Bacillus anthracis are unlikely. This represents the vast majority at the workplace. The zone is generally considered safe from Bacillus anthracis. Measures to protect workers from Bacillus anthracis infection are rarely done in areas that are classified as green zones.
There is also the yellow zone where contamination with anthrax spores is likely. Some of the workplaces that have been classified as yellow zones include; areas that handle letters from facilities with known contamination, workplaces that handle huge bulk of letters as well as workplaces that are near facilities with known contamination.
Lastly, there is the red zone where the likelihood of Bacillus anthracis is highly suspected or is confirmed. Examples of red zones include workplaces where workers have been informed by authorities that contamination with Bacillus anthracis is highly suspected or confirmed or regions where emergency response teams are involved in cleanup of and response to bioterrorist release of Bacillus anthracis spores.
Prior knowledge of degree of exposure to the spores guides workers’ actions during release of anthrax. They follow law enforcement as well as public health officials’ instructions in adopting suitable protective actions (Grutsch, Nimmer, Pittsley, & McKillip 2018; Rajput et al. 2018). Therefore, workers exercise different degrees of caution depending on the degree of exposure. For instance, it is anticipated that contamination in red zones is higher than in the green zones, hence workers are likely to have highly protective gears when they are in the red zone than in the green zone.
Bacillus anthracis has for a long time been classified as one of the occupational hazards that affects individuals handling animal products, remedial workers, or laboratory attendants. However, chances of intentional infection by malicious individuals or accidental release of Bacillus anthracis during ongoing research in laboratories infers that a wider variety of employees could be at risk of occupational exposure.
The first step for employers to recognize the likelihood of exposure to Bacillus anthracis by their workers is to carry out a job hazard analysis. Crook, Gawn, and Swan (2016) define a job hazard analysis as the process that focuses on workplace tasks to determine inherent hazards and establish guidelines for protecting workers. To make this process effective workers should describe the hazard as shown below to ensure that their efforts to get rid of the hazard and come up with guidelines for controlling the hazard are properly implemented. Workers should describe the following:
- Where the hazard occurred?
- What or who is exposed?
- What triggers the hazard?
- What are the consequences of exposure to Bacillus anthracis?
- Are there any other contributing factors?
Performing a job hazard analysis aids employers to identify if their workers have potential Bacillus anthracis exposure related to the workplace. Employers and workers that take part in emergency response and recovery operations or any other activities related to exposure to Bacillus anthracis such as laboratories technicians should regularly conduct job hazard analysis to ensure they are safe from contamination.
The main factors that should be considered during evaluation of biological hazards and precaution selection are classified into two categories; agent hazard procedure and workplace procedure. The ability of workers to control contamination by Bacillus anthracis spores should also be taken into consideration during the evaluation process (Sasahara et al. 2016). The process involves examination of the workplace to identify if necessary controls are present and manage unacceptable exposures to the bacterial spores. The process entails staff interviews, on-site work area visit, and informational research on exposure.
The evaluation starts with the recognition stage, known as basic characterization, which has four elements, that is, work force characterization, workplace characterization, biohazard characterization, and identification of the employees that are likely to be affected. Generally, the process involves the following;
- Conducting regular inspections of all work areas, equipment, operations, and facilities. The inspection team should engage workers and enquire from them about the common risks of Bacillus anthracis exposure at their workplace (Humbal, Gautam, & Trivedi 2018).
- The inspection procedure should be documented during evaluation to help employers to verify that hazardous conditions have been corrected. The evaluation team should record videos or take photos of the problems they have identified to later use them in discussing and brainstorming about how to control exposure to the Bacillus anthracis spores and also use them as future learning aids.
- The evaluation should also analyze all areas in the workplace such as storage and warehousing, office functions, purchasing functions, equipment and facility maintenance activities as well as activities of on-site subcontractors, contractors, and temporary employees.
- The evaluation uses checklists that outline what should be looked out for. This is essential because biological hazards lie under various categories such as equipment operation and maintenance, general housekeeping activities, and work practices (Higgins et al. 2003; Goel 2015).
Control and Monitoring
Usually, guidelines for protecting workers from exposure to Bacillus anthracis depend on the nature of work being done and the workers’ knowledge of their risk of exposure, including the likelihood of release of spores from either accidental or intentional events. The control procedures start with the workers. Some of the standard precautions that workers are required to undertake is to engage in hand hygiene practices and proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent direct contact with Bacillus anthracis. Exercising good hand hygiene practices avoids exposure acquired by touching contaminated environmental surfaces or animal products (Sanderson et al. 2014; Lecours et al. 2017). Hand hygiene entails washing hands with normal soap and water. Workers should also be informed of the importance of covering abrasions and cuts with bandages to prevent entry of Bacillus anthracis spores into the general body circulation.
In addition, contamination and its spread also involve safe disposal of waste, effective cleaning and disinfection of equipment and surfaces at the workplace. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that washing hands with either antimicrobial soap or non-antimicrobial soap and water reduces the microbial load on hands to a larger extent compared to use of alcohol-based hand rubs. The effectiveness of washing hands is based on the fact that the mechanical friction involved when rubbing hands together aids in killing the Bacillus anthracis present on hands (Weber, Sickbert-Bennett, Gergen, & Rutala 2013). Workers should be encouraged to often perform hand hygiene after carrying out any task that has the potential of Bacillus anthracis contamination such as handling contaminated animal products, handling mails from facilities suspected of contamination, or carrying out laboratory work involving use of contaminated products.
Employers are requested to ensure that their workers use suitable PPEs unless in cases where the employer establishes that the employee briefly declined to use personal protective equipment (Canter et al. 2005). However, this should happen rarely and only under circumstances whereby it is based on the employee’s professional judgement that during a certain instance, the use of PPE would impair effective delivery of services or would jeopardize the safety of other workers. In such circumstance, the documentation should be done so that studies can be done to identify if the changes can be made to prevent similar instances in future.
The other strategy of promoting safety is by making sure that the working site is maintained in a clean and sanitary conditions. The employers are charged with the responsibility of determining and implementing suitable written schedules for cleaning and decontamination (Hamilton, Hong, Casman, & Gurian 2015). For instance, there should be standard procedures for decontaminating non-disposal PPEs that are intact. However, workers should be warned against washing or decontaminating disposable PPEs. To control spread of Bacillus anthracis to the skin, employees should refrain from washing punctured or torn disposable gloves prior to removal.
Incidents of Bacillus anthracis infection are rare. However, when they occur, they have severe health outcomes on the affected workers. Some of the workers that are at high risk of this contamination include remedial workers, laboratory technicians as well as those handling animal products. It is for this reason that the occupational Health and Hygiene guidelines on Anticipating, Recognizing, Evaluating, Controlling and Monitoring (ARMEC) have been established to aid in promoting safety of workers that are at risk of contamination by Bacillus anthracis. If the procedures are followed accordingly, workers can detect Bacillus anthracis early enough, control its spread, and monitor future safety of the workplaces.
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