Anyone using biological agents has to be aware of their hazard potential. The GESTIS Biological Agents Database contains a wealth of information ranging from the classification in risk groups through to occupational safety and health measures.
Biological agents such as microorganisms are omnipresent and in many cases useful as well. Without them we would not survive – for some of them form a protective film on our skin, while others are responsible for the working of our digestive system. Branches of industry resort to microorganisms: bacteria, fungi and the like form the basic substances of biotechnology; the pharmaceutical industry uses them for the production of antibiotics; and biotechnologically produced enzymes are firmly established in the detergent and cleaning agent industry. A large number of biological agents are also intentionally used or arise incidentally in science and research as well as in biotechnology and keeping of experimental animals. In the health service, veterinary medicine, in cleaning and refurbishment activities, waste water and solid waste management, and in abattoirs, they can also be encountered – and risks may arise as well. For biological agents also include numerous bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that are capable of causing infectious diseases and other health problems in humans. The biological agents arising at the workplace therefore have to be included in the risk assessment. The risk assessment is the central element of occupational safety and health and the basis for systematic and effective safety and health protection in the everyday working environment.
The knowledge required for risk assessments and hence for dealing with hazards safely has been scattered among various media. The GESTIS Biological Agents Database brings this knowledge together in a uniform structure, pools it and makes it available online from anywhere, around the clock. Registration is not necessary. Access is free of charge.
For almost 18,500 biological agents, the GESTIS Biological Agents Database contains data on their classification in one of the four risk groups and the basic technical, organisational and personal protective measures during activities in laboratories, biotechnology and keeping of experimental animals. For around 300 selected biological agents of medical relevance or of relevance to occupational safety and health, datasheets are available containing extended information. These datasheets contain details of medical significance, the relevant sectors and activities, protective measures for specific pathogens. It is also possible to access links to reputable national and international science networks. The number of datasheets for biological agents containing this supplementary information is constantly increasing.
In addition, datasheets are issued not only on biological agents, but also on activities, such as datasheets for the waste management industry or agriculture and forestry which focus on the special features of activities in certain work areas. These datasheets list the technical, organisational and personal measures.
The GESTIS Biological Agents Database is a cooperation project of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the raw materials and chemical industry (BG RCI), the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) and the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). The project enjoys specialist assistance from the Committee for Biological Agents (ABAS).
For suggestions and queries on the content of the datasheets or on the functions of the database, an electronic “guestbook” is available.
The European Biosafety Association (EBSA) is a non-profit European organisation whose mission is to promote knowledge and understanding of biological safety as well as the prevention of misuse of biological agents through co-operation with appropriate European and international institutions.
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