11/05/2010

Risk assessment for biological agents

Following a brief introduction to biological agents and the hazards generated
by these agents, e-fact includes sections on 'How to do a Risk Assessment' and
'How to use a Checklist'. A checklist is then presented to help identify the
hazards potentially posed by biological agents. An extensive list of 'proposed
solutions and examples of preventive measures' is then considered in the light
of some of the questions raised in the general checklist. An example of risk
assessment relating to legionella is then presented. Finally, sources of
further information are presented at the end of the e-fact.

Biological agents are everywhere, and while they may be very beneficial for
life they may also be dangerous. Biological agents are relevant to many trades
and occupations, and a sizeable portion of the working population faces the
risk of exposure. Despite this, workers and employers tend to know little about
the risk of exposure to biological agents. Risk assessment for biological
agents is challenging, for many reasons. First, because of the diversity of
these agents. In addition, occupational exposure limits (OELs) have not been
set for many of them. Pathogenic micro-organisms may be hazardous at extremely
low concentrations, and of course biological agents are not visible to the
naked eye. Even if no biological agent is detected, it is possible for
micro-organisms to provoke a toxic or allergic effect via their metabolites
(mycotoxins or their component endotoxins). Unlike other dangerous substances,
biological agents are able to reproduce. Under favourable conditions, a small
number of micro-organisms may multiply in a very short time to create a
considerable problem.

Preventing biological risks is mandatory by law according to Directive
2000/54/CE. Trades and occupations exposed to biological agents are well
defined, and it is also known how workers are infected. The basic mechanism of
infection is the transmission chain from the reservoir - source of infection -
to the host (the worker). Prevention will concentrate on cutting one or several
links in the transmission chain.

Most of the time, basic personal hygiene measures and wearing personal
protective equipment (PPE) provides sufficient protection against biological
agents. Risk assessment will concentrate on identifying the hazards, assessing
the risks and then controlling those risks.

Following a brief introduction to biological agents and the hazards generated
by these agents, e-fact includes sections on 'How to do a Risk Assessment' and
'How to use a Checklist'. A checklist is then presented to help identify the
hazards potentially posed by biological agents. An extensive list of 'proposed
solutions and examples of preventive measures' is then considered in the light
of some of the questions raised in the general checklist. An example of risk
assessment relating to legionella is then presented. Finally, sources of
further information are presented at the end of the e-fact.


More information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work