The HSE-gateway
Biological risk factors

Biological risk factors

Biological risk factors are defined as living or dead biological material that may have harmful effects for humans or the environment.

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Microorganisms are found everywhere: in laboratories, industry, when dealing with patients or working with laboratory animals and fish, when travelling or sorting waste, on infected syringe needles and in the indoor climate, to name but a few places.

The vast majority are harmless and, indeed, essential; even so, many microorganisms can cause damage to health, illnesses and allergies.

This depends on:

  • the harmful properties of the microorganism
  • the quantity of microorganisms in the workplace
  • the spread of microorganisms in the workplace
  • how they enter the body
  • the individual employee’s susceptibility to the microorganism


Training should include information on which microorganisms employees may be exposed to and what damage to health may result from such exposure.

It should also include the importance of personal hygiene and cleaning of the workplace, and the use and handling of work clothing and personal protective equipment. Written procedures in the event of an accident must be drawn up and readily available. Information must be provided on measures to prevent and reduce exposure. Information must also be provided on health examinations and vaccination if a risk assessment shows that the person is exposed to biological factors.


For hazardous biological material, information sheets must be prepared containing information on name, supplier, health-damaging properties, risk of infection, risk factors, preventive measures and first aid. Optionally, you can use the Chemical Inventory, where you can create information sheets.

If the employee is or has been exposed to biological factors in infection risk groups 3 and 4, this must be registered in a register. The register must contain information about name, social security number, type of work and which biological factor. The register must be kept for at least 40 years after the exposure has ceased. Optionally, the exposure register EcoExposure can be used.


Risk assessment

A risk assessment must be carried out on all work that involves biological factors. The risk assessment should take into account:

  • exposure
  • safe storage
  • the biological factors that may be present
  • toxic/harmful substances
  • the infection risk group
  • information on illness caused by the biological factors
  • the likelihood of damage to health
  • any knowledge that a proven illness may be directly connected to the work
  • recommended precautions and safety measures
  • the possibility of theft of biological factors

Where the risk assessment shows that the employee may have been exposed to biological factors that are hazardous to health in such a way that more than the normal hygiene precautions are required; in this case, the employee must undergo a suitable health examination.

Obligation to report

Notify (by letter) the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (NO) not less than 30 days before the unit begins to use biological factors in infection risk groups 2, 3 and 4. The purpose of giving notice is so that the Authority knows that a risk assessment has been carried out and that there are plans to initiate measures to protect the employees. If the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority has comments on the report, they will respond within 30 days.


Liquid biological waste must be autoclaved and delivered as problematic waste. The liquid waste must be packaged in a leak proof container (eg. tube or bottle with screw cap) and then in a yellow waste container.
Solid biological waste (eg agar bowls) is disposed of directly in a yellow waste container.

Biological samples containing antibiotics are treated as liquid / solid biological waste and delivered as problematic waste.