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Understanding the Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations in SA

The OHS Act (85 of 1993), which defines the hazardous biological agents’ regulations, describes hazardous biological agents as follows: “Hazardous biological agents are any micro-organism, cell culture, or human endoparasite, including any which have been genetically modified, which may cause any infection, allergy or toxicity, or otherwise create a hazard to human health”.

By this definition, biological agents include toxins, microorganisms, fungi, viruses, and bacteria. These can be quite easily found in soil, animals, plants, and water, where they can reproduce and spread rapidly. This means that certain occupations present a greater risk than others. Take for instance refuse removal workers, food processing workers, and laboratories.

When running a business where such a risk exists, it is important to ensure that your staff members are fully aware of the risks, and that they are provided with every possible opportunity to protect themselves against them. Companies that overlook their responsibilities in terms of health and safety will face hefty fines, possible litigation, and sometimes even closure. Protecting the best interests of your business and workforce is essential if you want to avoid these types of hurdles along the way.

Varied Severity of Risk

Understanding that not all risks are the same is important when trying to design a strategic health and safety plan for a business. The first step is to determine what level the risk is. The level of danger attached to each hazardous biological agent is set on a sliding scale of severity with Group one being unlikely to cause human illness and Group four being likely to cause disease. Therefore, the procedures and systems in place in the workplace will vary according to the severity of the risk.

Hazardous biological agents regulations are then set in place to protect workers from the negative impact of exposure. It becomes quite complex when you consider that humans in the workplace can be infected in a number of ways, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Physical contact
  • Transmission via droplets
  • Air transmission

Hazardous Biological Agent Assessments

In order to minimise risk, business owners must assess their premises every two years. Control measures and processes must be implemented to protect employees from possible infection. This also means that all PPE must be provided to assist employees, along with ongoing and regular health and safety training. Medical surveillance must also be carried out for those employees that are exposed to hazardous biological agents.

What IOS Solutions Can Do for You

When it comes to ensuring that your business is compliant with the hazardous biological agents regulations, measures must be taken. Sometimes, these measures can be hard to implement in-house. Assessments and strategic planning are required to ensure that the correct course of action is taken and that the entire team is kept safe and educated on the potential dangers.

If you would like to learn more about the hazardous biological agents regulations in South Africa, we welcome you to get in touch with us. Give us a call or send us an email today.