Biological risks

Resource persons

The ACMO will tell you how to work in containment laboratories and under biosafety cabinets as well as how to organize biological waste sorting and disposal. He may also give you the risk class of a pathogen and help you assessing risks.

The manager of the containment facility also is a resource person.

Biological risks and their agents

 Biological risks are generated by the presence of

  • microorganisms that are pathogenic for humans (most frequent case)
  • pathogenic prion protein
  • biological allergens (hair, urin of some animals…)
  • some cell cultures
  • or some GMO

Microorganisms are divided into 4 groups of risk class, from 1 for non pathogenic to 4 for the microorganisms most pathogenic for the individual or the population in general. (1 = non pathogenic, 2, 3 and 4 = more and more pathogenic for an individual or the general population).

Each GMO is also assigned a risk class by the Genetic Engineering Commission (Commission de Génie Génétique)  when delivering the compulsory approval for using GMO.


The risk can be located into an animal (especially a wild animal or an animal voluntarily infected), a culture/concentration/purification of a pathogenic microorganism, a cell culture, a biological specimen or a GMO.


The risk is usually an infection, a toxi-infection or an allergy.

Some cell lines may also expose to the risk of tumor implantation in case of an accident damaging the skin barrier.



For any experiment, all phases exposing to a biological risk have to be performed in a containment laboratory facility with restricted access: an agent of class 2 will be manipulated in a biosafety level 2 equipment, an agent of class 3 in a biosafety level 3 equipment.

These confined areas prevent from dissemination of pathogenic agents out of the laboratory, but do not protect the manipulators.

They will be protected by:

  • respecting the appropriate working practice
  • using biosafety cabinets (PSM), isolators, sealed centrifuge buckets
  • wearing personnal protective equipment (EPI) : lab coat, gloves, and if needed, protection glasses, mask

Entering, leaving or working in a biosafety lab cannot be done just any way: there are procedures and rules that have to be respected. They will be given to you by the ACMO or the manager of the facility.


The PSM is used as soon there is a risk of aerosol. To maintain the safety properties of the PSM, only the material needed for the experiment to be performed will be placed on the workbench and no Bunsen burner will be used.

It is important not to eat, drink nor store food or drinks in a confined place; and more than anywhere else, mouth pipetting is prohibited.

Wearing a lab coat is compulsory; this coat cannot be taken out of the confined lab otherwise than packed for autoclaving.

Latex gloves or some nitrile models have to be used; they will be changed regularly (about every 30 minutes).



Waste produced in a containment lab have to be incinerated (as DASRI ie health care waste presenting infectious risks) and will be placed into specific packages ; waste issued from a biosafety level 3 facility will be autoclaved before collection .

The choice of packages and the sorting of waste depend on their type (sharps, solids, cadavers, effluents…).

The ACMO can give you the exact rules adopted by your lab.

Medical surveillance

Depending on the pathogenic agents which may be encountered, the doctor will give you the practical details of the medical surveillance and any complementary examinations and/or vaccinations.

Some works may be inadvisable for pregnant women or immune depressed people; contact quickly the prevention doctor .


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Dernières Actualités

05 FEVRIER 2012 : Ouverture des inscriptions aux 29èmes journée de l'ADHYS "Santé au travail : Comment prendre en compte les risques psychosociaux" les 29 et 30 mars 2012 à l'université de Lorraine (Metz).

Journées/tables rondes

2011 : Les risques biologiques : Préoccupations actuelles et prévention
2010 : Le risque chimique : Préoccupations actuelles et prévention
2009 : Facteur humain et prévention