Biological hazards

Activities with biological material are separated in four classes (often called BioSafety Level, BSL), related to the hazard of the manipulated organism, the scale of the activity, the steps, etc.

At EPFL there are three types of laboratories (no class 4 activities).

Class 1 activities involve well-characterized agents not known to consistently cause diseases in immunocompetent individuals. These activities present minimal potential hazard to laboratory personnel and the environment (no or low individual and community risk).

In this way, biosafety level 1 (BSL1) laboratories are not necessarily separated from the other labs in the building. Work is typically conducted on open bench tops using standard microbiological practices. Special containment equipment is not required, but may be used as determined by appropriate risk assessment.

BIO Safety Card N° 1 – P1 laboratory (PDF)

You have to declare class 1 activities to authorities when genetically modified material is involved (modified cells, bacteria, animals, plants, etc.).

To establish if a material is genetically modified you can check the Annex 1 of the “Ordinance on Handling Organisms in Contained Systems”. The biosafety team will help you with the declaration.

Any question about BSL1 waste? We have a dedicated webpage for Biological waste management.

BSL2 is suitable for work involving agents that can cause human or animal disease but is unlikely to be a serious hazard to laboratory workers, the community, livestock or the environment. Laboratory exposures may cause serious infection, but effective treatment and preventive measures are available and the risk of spread of infection is limited.

It differs from BSL1 in that:

  • a specific training is provided for laboratory personnel,
  • the access is restricted,
  • a biohazard sign is placed on the lab door,
  • and you have to minimise aerosol dissemination.

All procedures in which aerosols or splashes may be created are conducted in biosafety cabinets.

In a BSL2 lab, waste must be inactivated before disposal.

BIO Safety Card N° 2 – P2 laboratory (PDF)

You have to declare class 2 activities to authorities. The biosafety team will help you with the declaration.

Any question about BSL2 waste ? We have a dedicated webpage for Biological waste management.

A risk group 3 organism is considered by the World Health Organization as a “pathogen that usually causes serious human or animal disease but does not ordinarily spread from one infected individual to another (high individual risk, low community risk).” Effective treatment and preventive measures are usually available.

The biosafety level 3 (BSL3 or P3) laboratory is designed and provided for work with risk group 3 microorganisms. BSL3 containment requires the strengthening of the operational and safety programs over and above those for basic laboratories (P1 and P2).

Guidelines have been developed on this subject:

Guidelines for P3 available upon request

BIO Safety Card N° 3 – P3 laboratory (PDF)

The Human Research Act (HRA, 810.30) requires that any research involving humans must be evaluated and authorized by the cantonal ethics commission. The collection of human blood samples (or other human samples) for experimental purposes falls into the category of projects that need to be approved by this commission.

The process has to be done on the CER-VD website.

How to work with human samples?

For the biosafety aspects: where to work? which equipment? what to do with the waste? etc. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

An import certificate from authorities might be necessary to import pathogens.

Human pathogens

An import certificate is not legally required to import of the majority of human pathogens.

More information on the website of the Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Animal pathogens

The Veterinary Office (FSVO) requires an import authorization for animal pathogens and for products of animal origin (e.g. food products).

In order to get an import permit, it is necessary to fill the form on the FSVO website.

The following document describes how to choose appropriate decontaminating products and solutions and manage biological spills.

Guidelines – Surface decontamination (PDF)

For larger spills:

BIO Safety Card N° 4 – Large biological spill (PDF)

For the management of P3 spills, please refer to the P3 guidelines.

Please register for the FOBS 3 training and ask for the access rights via AxS.

For requests to access SV faculty rooms, please fill in the SV safety vademecum.

Camille Freyssenet Camille Freyssenet [email protected] +41 21 69 30995
Eleonora Simeoni Eleonora Simeoni [email protected] +41 21 69 37239