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Construction micro-organisms: Anthrax from contaminated land and buildings

Construction workers might be exposed to anthrax in some situations. This page tells you how to control this risk and why. You also need to be aware of the general information on micro-organisms.  

What you must do

Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to the following things:

Assess

Identify and assess: The general risk of getting anthrax is very low. Workers may be at more risk in a number of situations including:

Control

Prevent: For potentially hazardous sites, appropriate soil sampling/building material sampling and laboratory testing can give an indication of risk. Alternatively, you could adopt a precautionary approach and assume that anthrax spores are likely to be present. However, any spores are probably at low numbers which would not put the worker at significant risk and the simple hygiene controls described below will probably be enough.

Control: Where anthrax spores are known / assumed to be present, control this risk by:

Review

Supervise: Ensure that controls such as work methods, PPE and welfare are effective and used by the workers. Anyone using tight fitting RPE needs to be clean shaven and face fit tested.

What you should know

Anthrax is a potentially fatal infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is a zoonosis, ie a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. Animals become infected when consuming contaminated water, hay, feed (like bonemeal) , by grazing on contaminated land or inhaling large numbers of spores.

Cases of people getting anthrax are very rare. People generally contract it from contact with diseased animals, their secretions, hides, hair or other products. It can occur in a number of forms. The most common type accounts for almost all of the cases and affects the skin but is readily treated with antibiotics. Other types are pulmonary (lung) anthrax, and intestinal (gut) anthrax, but there are no recorded cases of these types in construction workers.

Updated 2014-09-11