What employers should know about biological risks
Nowadays, we need to pay even more attention to the control of biological risks due to the emerging COVID-19 epidemic. Plenty of restrictions have come into effect that employers need to be aware of as well. It is especially important that employers do not make decisions based on party information heard from the Internet or television, or false statements, but seek advice from their occupational health specialist on what to do in this case. For ongoing official information about the epidemic, you can find information on the WHO (World Health Organization) website.
What does the law say about biological risks?
A 61/1999. (XII. 1.) EüM decree is on the protection of the health of workers exposed to biological agents, which stipulates that the employer must assess and estimate all possible biological risks in the workplace on an annual basis. The law classifies these biological factors into four groups depending on the level of risk of infection.
Group 1: the biological factor that is incapable of causing human disease;
Group 2: a biological factor that has the potential to cause human disease and therefore pose a risk to the worker, but is unlikely to spread in the human community, the disease it causes is usually effectively prevented, or its treatment is effective;
Group 3: a biological factor that has the potential to cause serious human disease and therefore pose a serious risk to the worker, may be at risk of spreading within the human community, but is generally effective in preventing or treating it effectively;
Group 4: the biological factor that causes a serious human illness and therefore poses a serious risk to the worker, a high risk of its spread in the human community, and is generally not preventable or effective.
What are the obligations of employers in the event of biological hazards?
- Where the nature of the work permits, efforts should be made to replace the hazardous biological factor in a way that, in our current scientific experience, does not endanger or reduce the risk to the worker’s health.
- If the biological risk assessment shows a risk to the safety or health of the worker, the exposure must be prevented or eliminated.
- Where it is not technically possible to prevent or eliminate the exposure, the risk of exposure must be reduced to a level that ensures that the health and safety of the worker concerned is reasonably protected by the following measures:
- The number of workers at risk or potentially affected, including those within the scope of the activity, shall be kept to a minimum;
- the workplace, work processes and technical inspection instructions must be designed, installed or set up in such a way as to prevent or minimize the possibility of the spread of biological agents in the workplace;
- appropriate protective equipment and personal protective equipment must be provided and used;
- measures must be introduced to prevent or reduce the possibility of the biological agent spreading out of the workplace;
- a 61/1999. (XII. 1.) EüM Decree, biological hazard and other additional warning signs and signs shall be used;
- a contingency plan for biological accidents should be established;
- If necessary and technically feasible, an analysis must be carried out to detect the presence of biological agents outside the place of use;
- adequate facilities are provided for the safe collection, storage and disposal of waste, including, where possible, the use of secure and identifiable containers;
- equipment must be provided to ensure the risk-free handling and transport of biological agents in the workplace.
In a given case, an infectious disease can place an extraordinary financial burden on businesses, so it is very important that we take the identified hazards seriously and take preventive measures for the benefit of ourselves, our employees and our customers.
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