Biosafety FAQs

General

  1. What are the categories of biological containment in use?

    The term "containment" is used to describe safe methods for managing infectious materials in the laboratory environment where they are being handled or maintained. The purpose of containment is to reduce or eliminate exposure of laboratory workers, other persons, and the outside environment to potentially hazardous agents. The three elements of containment include laboratory practice and technique, safety equipment, and facility design. The risk assessment of the work to be done with a specific agent will determine the appropriate combination of these elements.

    Primary containment, the protection of personnel and the immediate laboratory environment from exposure to infectious agents, is provided by the first two elelments, good microbiological technique and the use of appropriate safety equipment. The use of vaccines may provide an increased level of personal protection.

    Secondary containment, the protection of the environment external to the laboratory from exposure to infectious materials, is provided the third element, facility design in combination with operational practices.


Occupational Health Program

  1. Are pre-placement physicals required for new hires as part of the occupational health program or can they submit screening questionnaires or medical self-assessments?

    The entity may use a medical self-assessment form, screening questionnaire or a pre-placement physical to complement the occupational health program. However, this is not a requirement of the regulations.

  2. Are pre-placement physicals required for existing employees as part of the occupational health program or are annual animal allergy screening and respirator questionnaires adequate?

    The entity may use an annual animal allergy screening, respirator questionnaire or a pre-placement physical to complement the occupational health program. However, this is not a requirement of the regulations.

  3. Are employees allowed to opt out of the entity's occupational health program?

    No, individuals with access to Tier 1 select agents and toxins must be enrolled in the entity's occupational health program.

  4. Do personnel working with excluded attenuated strain of a select agent or toxin need to be enrolled in an entity's occupational health program?

    No, attenuated strains of select agents or toxins that have been excluded are not subject to the select agent regulations.

    Note: An individual or entity that possesses, uses, or transfers an excluded attenuated strain will be subject to regulation if there is any reintroduction of factor(s) associated with virulence or other manipulations that modify the attenuation such that virulence is restored or enhanced.

  5. Is serum banking suggested for work with select agents in a Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 environment?"

    The BMBL, 5th ed. (p. 47) states that "Each institution should consider the need for collection and storage of serum samples from at-risk personnel." If there is a benefit to the entity (e.g., aids in the detection for diagnosis), it may use serum banking to complement occupational health program. When developing an occupational health program, the entity should discuss the benefits versus the costs and concerns (e.g., efficacy of samples over time) of serum banking. HOwever, this is not a requirement of the regulations.

  6. Are there corresponding biosecurity levels that associate with biosafety levels (e.g., work with agents in BSL2 has corresponding biosecurity levels)? For example, does Botulinum neurotoxin producing species of Clostridium that can be worked in BSL2 laboratory and listed as Tier 1 agent, have biosecurity requirements associated with a BSL3 laboratory?

    There are no specific biosecurity levels associated with biosafety levels. Information about containment and classification of biosafety levels 1-4 is available in the BMBL. Entity security measures must be sufficient to safeguard the select agent or toxin against unauthorized access, theft, loss, or release, which may include the security enhancements required for Tier 1 select agents and toxins.

  7. Does an entity's employee health program cover the requirement for an occupational health program if it includes blood borne pathogen standard, aerosol transmissible diseases, and respiratory protection?

    The entity may use an employee health program to complement the occupational health program (OHP). However, this is not a requirement of the regulations. A key component of the OHP is to ensure that the professional healthcare provider is informed of the potential hazards posed by the select agents or toxins and the level of risk given its intended use. With this information, a program can be developed to address the identified issues.

  8. Are employees required to take vaccinations or is the employer required to offer vaccinations to employees or visitors as part of the occupational health program?

    The entity may offer vaccinations to the employees to complement the occupational health program. However, this is not a requirement of the regulations.

  9. Are maintaining baseline serum samples required as part of the occupational health program?

    The entity may maintain baseline serum samples to complement the occupational health program. However, this is not a requirement of the regulations.

    The BMBL recommends institutions performing work with certain virus (i.e., Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus) should require storage of a baseline serum sample from individuals who work with the virus or virus-containing specimens.

    If there is a benefit to the entity (e.g., aids in the detection for diagnosis), it may use serum banking to complement occupational health program. When developing an occupational health program, the entity should discuss the benefits versus the costs and concerns (e.g., efficacy of samples over time) of serum banking.