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In the modern age of horror movies and global pandemics, the image of a white-suited person conjures many negative connotations. Thoughts of zombie movies or eerie doctors hidden behind sheets of white and plastic visors have come to embody everything we know as “hazmat” or “biohazardous” in our current social consciousness.

These images lie far from the truth, though. Traditional hazmat suits, masks, gloves, and visors are much more commonplace and far less harrowing than the fiction would make us think. In fact, they appear in daily cleaning scenarios worldwide.

Much like any other area in the country, Utah sees its fair share of accidents, chemical spills, and crime scenes. Thankfully, Davis County clean up specialists know just how to handle these situations by using the correct resources for each job.

Many people don’t know that there are several key differences between hazmat and biohazard when it comes to their utilization in cleaning. Today, we will explore these differences and help you understand why you might need them.

Hazmat vs. Biohazard

What are the differences between hazmat and biohazard? Under what circumstances would we need one or the other? Let’s take a look.

What is Hazmat?

The name hazmat is short for “Hazardous Material” and refers specifically to any dangerous materials that do not stem from living organisms. Hazardous materials pose significant threats to human and animal life and the environment but come from man-made or chemical sources.

Types of hazardous materials include:

  • Chemicals used in factory environments
  • Acids
  • Oils and fuels
  • Poisonous items
  • Manufactured materials such as asbestos
  • Propane or gases
  • Radioactive materials

Laws regulate the use of these materials due to their hazardous nature. Their disposal is likewise heavily regulated. Rules such as the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) govern the specific means people transport them. Any place that uses or stores them must use specific signs and labels to warn people that they are there.

What is Biohazard?

Biohazardous material is anything that comes from a biological source. That is to say: if it comes from a living creature – usually defined as anything capable of reproduction – it is biological. Biohazardous material is such material that also poses a threat to human or animal life.

Materials that fall under the biohazard title include:

  • Fungi or molds
  • Bacteria or viruses
  • Police-investigation chemicals such as fingerprint powder or biological tracing substances
  • Blood, saliva, and other living or dead tissues (both human and animal)

Each of these materials comes from a living organism, or is a man-made material used in the presence of a biological hazard. If a person is exposed to them, they risk illness or infection. As with hazardous materials, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that clean-up personnel use PPE and to have specialized training, although most states do not require official permitting or certification.

Situations where Hazmat and Biohazard are Needed

Anyone can find themselves in a situation where they need the help of either a hazmat or biohazard cleaning team, though certain situations will be more likely to require one more than the other.

Hazmat cleaning often occurs in situations that have people handling chemicals or building materials. Spills that occur in factories will be handled by trained hazmat cleaners, as some industries require the use of dangerous chemicals. While most sites will have on-site trained hazmat cleaners, some might need outside help, especially if they handle different substances than their usual work.

Hazmat cleaning teams will also be called out to emergency jobs at accident scenes, especially if they involve transported chemicals, such as when an oil or fuel tanker is involved in a traffic collision. This is because the spilled fuel poses a danger to not only the local wildlife but also to other drivers and pedestrians. All lost chemicals must be properly cleared, gathered, and disposed of, and the road and surrounding areas decontaminated.

Conversely, there are many more situations in which a biohazard cleanup team will be required. Some of these instances are:

  • Homes

The disposal of human bodies, removed limbs or organs, and the cleaning of bodily fluids such as feces, urine, and blood must be handled by trained biohazard cleaners. Each of these substances risks carrying diseases and viruses that can easily be passed on through physical contact. Gloves, facemasks, and goggles are required to prevent the cleaner from coming into contact with these bloodborne pathogens while completely removing the threat from the premises.

  • Crime Scenes

After investigators have cleared a crime scene, it is up to specialized biohazard teams to clean up all traces of the crime. Blood, investigation chemicals – such as fingerprint powder and luminol – and other fluids must be completely purged to make the location accessible, after the evidence is gone. This also happens in the case of suicide.

  • Vehicle Accidents

While a hazmat team will be responsible for all the unnatural chemicals in a car accident, a biohazard team will be responsible for cleaning up after any injured parties are removed. Clearing the road and other accessible areas of blood and other biological waste must be done thoroughly.

Why Is Professional Cleaning Necessary?

In both hazmat and biohazard cleaning cases, there is an element of danger. Unlike regular cleaners, who clean up everyday messes or debris from daily life, hazmat and biohazard cleaners are trained to handle far less commonplace materials. They are called into action whenever something potentially threatens people and must be immediately removed and cleaned.

Exposure to bio and other hazardous materials, such as animal, lab, or chemical waste, can lead to poisoning or physical harm or even death. Professionally-trained technicians dispose of these items safely and according to strict guidelines to prevent further damage or exposure.

Cleaning hazmat or biohazard material requires much more thorough and extreme cleaning methods. Trained cleaners will use stronger chemicals and techniques to completely remove all traces of the material and render the area safe for human activity. This means they will also use much more protective types of PPE that complies with stringent requirements.

Cleaning of hazardous or biological waste may seem like a simple task, but it is not. A lot of care and attention must go into clearing spaces of these dangerous substances, and strict rules and laws often govern their disposal. As such, your local Utah clean up specialists are best suited to handle any job that requires the removal of life-threatening materials.