Biological Agents in the Healthcare Sector
Healthcare Work Activities
Exposure to biological agents in healthcare may be:
- intentional, as a result of working with the biological agent itself, such as in a microbiology laboratory; or
- unintentional, such as in patient care activities, where the exposure may arise as a result of the type of work being carried out.
Healthcare workers may come into contact with a number of sources of infection either through direct contact with patients or with contaminated materials, including waste, laundry, contaminated surfaces etc.
Particular attention must be given to managing the risk from infections which will include hazard identification, assessment of the level of risk (taking account of who could be harmed and how), identification and implementation of control measures to eliminate the risk where possible, and if not, to reduce the risk to ensure a safe working environment.
The control of occupational exposure to biological agents in healthcare is covered by the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations 1994 as amended in 1998. The Health and Safety Authority is the enforcing agency with regard to these Regulations. The Health and Safety Authority does not deal with clinical risk issues with regard to infection control in healthcare, as this is more appropriately dealt with elsewhere.