Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - COSHH Level 2 (VTQ)

47 videos, 1 hour and 58 minutes

Course Content

Biological agents

Video 20 of 47
2 min 5 sec
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There are special regulations in respect of handling of a substance that is a biological agent, as it poses special risk to workers and the environment far more than we can cover on this course. COSHH covers these agents, and their handling and special risk assessment planning is needed in accordance with the regulations. Any biological agent which appears in the classification list approved by the Health and Safety Commission 13, referred to as the Approved List of biological agents is categorised as being in the hazard group specified there. The agency-approved Code of Practice defines biological agents as substances like microorganisms such as bacteria, virus and fungi, microscopic infections in the form of larger parasites, and also cell cultures containing harmful properties, for example, if they could cause infection, allergy, toxicity or otherwise create a hazard to human health.

Nucleic acid is not a biological agent, however, it can still be a substance hazardous to health. In such cases, the more general provisions outlined in COSHH would apply. Biological agents are classified into different hazard groups according to their ability to cause infection in healthy humans, the severity of disease that may result, the risk of what that infection could spread into the community, and the availability of vaccines and effective treatment.

Some biological agents are not infectious, but may have the toxic, allergenic, or other harmful properties. While a non-infectious biological agent may be classified as low-hazard agent, substantial control measures may still be needed for it depending on other harmful properties it has. For example, if it has toxic properties, then COSHH would apply. Correct and effective risk assessments is needed when dealing with any biological agent.