Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Working with pathogens in laboratories: Protecting your workforce

Protect your workforce

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.


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

In this Guideline

Working with pathogens in laboratories: Protecting your workforce

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