IOSH Renews Commitment to Hazardous Biological Agents Guidelines

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is urging businesses to familiarise themselves with new draft guidelines around hazardous biological agents in workplaces.

Representatives approved the guidelines of governments, employers, and workers at a gathering hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) from 20th24th June.

The approved draft guidance will contribute to the next global standard-setting discussions of the International Labour Conference in 2024 and 2025 to approve a Biological Hazards Convention; the Member States will have to incorporate these provisions into the national legislative framework if approved.

ILO technical guidelines provide practical approaches to reducing work-related injuries, ill health, diseases, and incidents. On this specific matter, they also help raise awareness on the obligations, responsibilities, duties, and rights of those involved in the design, management, and organisation of any work involving biological hazards or linked to high-risk sectors with exposure to biological hazards.

The guidelines’ core principle strongly emphasises the need for sound protocol-driven biological hazard identification strategies and, risk assessment processes, preventive, and protective measures.

Ivan Williams Jimenez, policy development manager at IOSH, said: ‘These technical guidelines represent sound advice for workers and employers to better understand the potential exposure and health impacts of biological hazards in the workplace, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has put on the spotlight the need for up-to-date guidance on this issue. With this in mind, we urge businesses and workers to familiarise themselves with this guidance.’

‘We believe this information might interest those working in agriculture and forestry settings, laboratories, food processing plants, waste management facilities, healthcare, and community services, and other sectors in which workers can be exposed to biological hazards.’

‘As the knowledge and information on biological hazards in the workplace keep improving, IOSH welcomes the efforts to protect workers against these agents. Harmonisation and improvement in existing classification systems of occupational infectious diseases are needed, together with a stronger evidence base on the impact of hazardous agents on occupations, industries and infectious diseases. IOSH hopes to contribute to the important debates that will take place in the next two years.’