Before starting any work with biological material, a risk assessment must be performed. This assessment determines the appropriate work procedures and containment level in which the work can be safely completed. Health, Safety and Environment Services (HSE) personnel will assist in the assessment of the biological agent, host (or person working with the agent) and the environment in which the work will be performed.
Once the risk assessment has been completed, HSE will advise the Biosafety committee on the appropriate containment level.
Many biological agents are pathogenic to humans, animals, or other forms of life. The Public Health Agency of Canada has developed Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines which assist in classifying biological agents into different Risk Groups. For more information on Risk Groups and how they are organized, please refer to the UBC Biosafety Manual.
To determine the risk group classification for your biological agent, please visit:
- PHAC Pathogen Safety Data Sheets
- Schedule 1-5 of the Human Pathogen Toxin Act
- ABSA Risk Group Classification
The two primary concerns in host factors are the medical status of the worker and their attitudes and experience in working with biological materials. A person who has special health conditions or poor immune status could be more at risk when working with biological materials. In addition, risks increase substantially when workers have not been trained or they are not aware of the risks associated with the work that they are performing.
When assessing the environment, the manner in which the biological agent is being manipulated must be examined. For this part of the assessment, specifics such as quantity of the agent, aerosol production and the usage of sharps and needles must be considered.