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Unit 4.7 Biological Agents

Approximately 5 million employees in Germany carry out activities at workplaces where biological agents occur. Biological agents are bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but also cell cultures and parasites. The number of all characterised biological agents exceeds several thousand species including their genetically modified forms. The diversity among biological agents ranges from the common and harmless baker's yeast to the contagious and highly lethal Ebola virus.

Work-related activities with biological agents involve manufacturing, use and release, e.g. in laboratories, health care units, animal husbandries, and waste industries. Employees coming into direct contact with hazardous biological agents are at particularly high health risk. Besides the risk of infections, sensitising and toxic effects of biological agents need be taken into account. The discovery of novel and mutated biological agents, changes in the working environment as well as climate change constitute challenges for current occupational health.

Tha main activities of Unit 4.7 'Biological Agents' are research and development, knowledge transfer, political consulting and sovereign functions. It manages the Committee on Biological Agents ("Ausschuss für Biologische Arbeitsstoffe", ABAS) and participates in its working groups.

Main tasks comprise:

  1. Development of methods for exposure measurement
  2. Development of methods to identify and characterise the potential risk by biological agents
  3. Research projects on the exposure of workers and the health effects caused by biological agents at work
  4. Information of the scientific community
  5. Implementation of occupational health and safety issues by lectures and seminars at universities
  6. Evaluation of occupational safety of microorganisms used as or in biocides for national and European registrations
  7. Management of the Committee on Biological Agents
  8. Participation in different ABAS working groups
  9. Qualification of junior scientists


Dr Udo Jäckel

Head of Unit 4.7 Biological Agents

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