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Activities involving Biological Agents

Classification in activities with and without safety level classification

When working with biological agents, a differentiation is made between activities with and without safety level classification. This is because of different approaches with the risk assessment.

All activities involving the use of biological agents in laboratories, with laboratory animals, in the area of biotechnology and in healthcare facilities have to be assigned to a safety level. They are therefore labelled “safety level activities”. With safety level activities, the occurring and/or utilized biological agents are generally known or can at least be sufficiently determined. A differentiation is made between targeted and non-targeted activities.

In the case of targeted activities, the safety level depends on the risk group of the biological agent to be determined. If employees carry out activities involving several biological agents, the safety level classification is determined by the biological agent with the highest risk group. In the case of non-targeted activities, the safety level classification is specified by the risk group of the biological agent which, on the basis of

  • the likelihood of its occurrence,
  • the type of activity,
  • the type, duration, level and frequency of exposure

determines the risk of infection of the employees.

Activities without safety level classification

Activities which do not take place in laboratories, with laboratory animals, in the area of biotechnology or in healthcare facilities are not allocated to a safety level. They are therefore called “non-safety level activities”. These include, for example, cleaning and refurbishment work, activities in the area of veterinary medicine, in agriculture, forest, waste water, and general waste management, and in biogas plants and abattoirs.

With non-safety level activities, obtaining all of necessary information for risk assessment is often difficult. This is because the range of biological agents is subject to variations and because the type, duration level or frequency of the exposure can change. The following can be helpful:

  • Notification provided by the ABAS (Committee on Biological Agents),
  • Experience from comparable activities,
  • other established occupational research.