WA’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety recently issued a safety alert following an incident in which a worker contracted a life-threatening respiratory infection from the Psychrobacter sanguinis bacteria.
In the days immediately prior to contracting the infection, the worker had been cleaning biological fouling from marine infrastructure including jetty pylons.
Biological fouling, also referred to as biofouling, may include microorganisms, plants, algae or small animals such as shellfish which can be hazardous to health.
Infections arising from bacteria entering the body through nicks or cuts in the skin have previously been linked to illness and death in the fishing and aquaculture industry.
The alert noted that workers may potentially be exposed to biological hazards when cleaning biofouling from marine infrastructure by absorption through intact or damaged skin, inhalation or ingestion.
The risk of exposure depends on the cleaning methods and the control measures used.
Hazards associated with the selected cleaning method may not have been identified, assessed and, as far as practicable, controlled.
Adequate personal protective equipment may not have been provided to or used by workers, while information and training regarding biological hazards associated with cleaning biofouling may not have been provided.
The alert subsequently recommended a number of required actions: