Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Pathogens from laboratories and production facilities

At present there are separate regulations that control

  • the release into the environment of pathogens that could cause animal or human diseases
  • the release into the environment of Genetically Modifies Organisms
  • the exposure of workers to pathogens in the workplace.

It is expected that new regulations will be developed that will cover all aspects of work with pathogens and biological agents.

HSE: Towards a single regulatory framework for animal/human pathogens and GMOs

At present you will need separate authorisations for different aspects of this type of work. This guideline provides basic information about these areas of work and signposts to the appropriate sources of support and information.

Additional resources

   

Protecting animal and human health

What you must do

Get a licence

If you work with any animal pathogens specified in the regulations, for example foot and mouth disease, you must have a SAPO licence (Specified Animal Pathogen Order).

Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own regulations designed to prevent the spread of animal pathogens and to ensure they are handled in a way that prevents infection.

Your licence will require:

  • Assessment and risk based classification of contained use activities
  • Notification of premises
  • Application of appropriate control measures

Inspections of premises covered by a SAPO licence are carried out by the Health and Safety Executive, or Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland.

Information on the controls on animal pathogens can be found on the GOV.UK website.

GOV.UK: Animal Pathogens: guidance on controls

In Northern Ireland you can apply for a SAPO Licence, and submit general enquiries to:

Department of Agriculture and Rural development
Dundonald House
Upper Newtownards Road
Belfast
BT4 3SB
Email: dardhelpline@dardni.gov.uk
Tel: 028 9052 4999

In Scotland you can apply for a SAPO licence and submit general enquiries to:

SG Rural Directorate
Animal Health and Welfare
Room 350
Pentland House
47 Robs Loan
Edinburgh
EH14 1TY
Email: animal.health@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

The Scottish Government has produced a range of guidance on the issues of animal health and welfare. This covers topics such as animal diseases and biosecurity for farm animals.

Animal Welfare Scotland protects farmed animals from animal pathogen and zoonoses and therefore protects human health from cross infection.

Scottish Government: Animal Health and Welfare

Manage waste safely

Waste materials from your laboratory may contain parts of animals and materials that are classed as animal by-products.

Animal by-products that have been used in research activities, or which could have been infected with diseases during experiments must be treated as Category 1 (high risk) animal by-products.

Category 1 material must be disposed of by:

  • direct incineration
  • rendering - followed by incineration or landfill.

You can find out about dealing with animal by-products in our guidance:

Animal By-products

Genetic modification, also known as genetic engineering or recombinant-DNA technology, allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another and also between non-related species.

The products obtained from this technology are commonly called genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A number of pieces of legislation control the use of this technology and cover:

  • Contained use for example research trials within a laboratory or greenhouse
  • Research releases, for example small scale trials of plants or the trials of pharmaceutical products such as vaccines
  • Commercial releases
  • The sale and labelling of animal feedstuff that contains genetically modified content.

EU legislation aims to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.

What you must do

Obtain a licence

In Northern Ireland the Department of the Environment is responsible for the licensing of deliberate releases of GMOs into the environment. The Department of Agriculture and Rural development (DARD) is responsible for issues relating to the traceability and labelling of genetically modified animal feedstuffs.

In Scotland the GM Inspectorate and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) is responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations governing the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs. Local authorities are responsible for the enforcement of traceability and labelling requirements and for sampling and testing food and feed for GMOs.

You can find out more about GMOs and the legislation that controls their use:

At present there are no commercially grown GM crops in either Scotland or Northern Ireland. A number of controlled trials of pharmaceuticals that use GM technology have taken place.

Manage waste safely

Waste materials from your laboratory may contain parts of animals and materials that are classed as animal by-products.

Animal by-products that have been used in research activities, or which could have been infected during experiments must be treated as Category 1 (high risk) animal by-products.

Category 1 material must be disposed of by:

  • direct incineration
  • rendering - followed by incineration or landfill.

You can find out about dealing with animal by-products in our guidance:

Animal By-products

If your business works with pathogens in laboratories and research facilities you must comply with the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

What you must do

Use control measures

You must comply with the general duties outlined in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. Working with pathogens or other biological agents requires attention to the additional provisions in Schedule 3 of the regulations.

HSENI: COSHH

Scotland: Healthy Working Lives: COSHH and hazardous substances

You will need to put in place control measures when working with biological agents. These will depend on the type of biological agent that you are working with. Biological agents are classified according to their ability to infect humans. The classification ranges from Hazard Group (HG) 1, the least harmful, to HG4 the most harmful, including viruses such as Ebola. The classification is explained in the Approved list of biological agents.

Approved list of Biological agents

Notify the HSE or NSENI

The first time you work o your premises with any biological agent classified as being in HG2, HG3 or HG4 you must notify the Health and Safety Executive if you are based in Scotland, or the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland.

You must also provide a notification each time you work with a biological agent classified as being HG3 or HG4 and some that are classed as HG2.

HSE: Guidance notes on Notifications

HSE: Online Notification form

Manage waste safely

Waste materials from your laboratory may contain parts of animals and materials that are classed as animal by-products.

Animal by-products that have been used in research activities, or which could have been infected during experiments must be treated as Category 1 (high risk) animal by-products.

Category 1 material must be disposed of by:

  • direct incineration
  • rendering - followed by incineration or landfill.

You can find out about dealing with animal by-products in our guidance:

Animal By-products

Further information

The HSE website contains information on all aspects of biosafety, including sections covering:

  • Working with animal and human pathogens
  • Infections at work
  • Information on specific infections, eg influenza or anthrax
  • The Law relating to this area of work

HSE: Biosafety and microbiological containment

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