1. Own safety first
Biosafety rules ensure that people work safely with biological agents. A well-functioning biosafety system is a prerequisite for a well-functioning biosecurity system. By creating safe and secure working conditions, you prevent incidents and the inadvertent or deliberate spread of biological agents. Before you start your daily activities in a lab, make sure that all necessary precautions have been taken and that you and your colleagues comply with the code of conduct and safe working procedures. Challenge your colleagues if you see them in unsafe situations and be aware of the risks of working with high-risk agents. The culture in the organisation is important for working safely.
2. Close or lock doors
Besides working safely (biosafety), you should also make sure that your work is secure (biosecurity). When working with high-risk pathogens, be aware of their potential effects on human health and the environment, and be cognisant of the consequences of theft or malicious use. The physical security of laboratories and storage areas for biological material and related knowledge is crucial. Make sure that biological agents and the related knowledge are stored and secured effectively, and that only authorised individuals have access.
3. Accompany visitors
Visitors must wear a clearly visible visitor’s pass and should never be allowed to enter secured areas unaccompanied. Never leave visitors alone, and challenge anyone who is not authorised to be in a secured area. Carefully consider whether guest workers, temporary employees, students and maintenance technicians should be given access to laboratories and storage areas for biological agents.
4. Be careful with confidential information
Handle information and knowledge about biological agents and technologies carefully. Identify sensitive or confidential information and be aware of the consequences of communicating or publishing this information. Make sure that sensitive or confidential information is secured, for example by encrypting USB sticks, hard disks and laptops, and storing lab journals at a secure location. Be conscientious and aware about the rights that are involved when working with information on high-risk biological agents.
5. Know the risks of the agents you are working with
Knowledge of the biological agents in your laboratory or workplace is essential for working safely and securely. Make sure that you are aware of the characteristics of the agents and that up-to-date factsheets are available. Biological agents can have a ‘dual-use’ character: in addition to their medical or technological applications, they can potentially be used as biological weapons. Regulations on export, transport and transport security apply to infectious biological agents. Conduct a risk analysis to identify both biosafety and biosecurity risks, and ensure that these risks are adequately covered. Maintain an up-to-date list of biological agents and their storage locations so that the response in case of calamities is adequate and emergency services can be supported with this information.
6. Follow rules, procedures and codes of conductres
Follow the biosecurity code of conduct and guidelines. Personnel must be well-trained and must know, and be able to follow, the procedures for biosafety and biosecurity. They must have practical experience with biological agents, but should also understand the corresponding theory. Biosecurity is the responsibility of everyone in the organisation. So be aware of the risks, and if you see someone working unsafely, challenge them. Train for dangerous situations and calamities, and know what to do in case of accidents and theft.
7. Secure your computer
When leaving a room, lock the computer or log out. Make sure that digital folders with confidential or sensitive information that you are authorised to access are not accessible to others. Be aware of the value and sensitivity of the information, data and protocols on the computer.
8. Lock freezers, fridges, drawers etc., neatly
Lock freezers, refrigerators, desk drawers, labs and workspaces immediately after you finish your work. This prevents unauthorised individuals from gaining access to sensitive knowledge or biological agents, whether unintentionally or deliberately, thereby causing unsafe situations. Also consider the safety of cleaning staff, technical support staff and students.
9. Keep your workplace clean
A clean and orderly lab bench is a safer workplace and helps to prevent spills, incidents and accidents. It is also less vulnerable to malicious actions. Do not store any unlabelled biological agents, reagents and ‘orphan’ material. Indeed, if you are uncertain about the contents of Eppendorf tubes/test tubes, you can no longer use the material for research, validation or publication, but it can lead to unsafe situations. Make sure that agents are correctly coded before being stored at secure locations that only authorised individuals can access.
10. Emergency?, know who to contact!
In case of calamities: know who you should contact to ensure a quick response. Notify the security service, the biological safety officer or the in-house emergency team. Report all incidents, accidents and thefts involving biological agents. Report all abnormal behaviour of colleagues, support staff and visitors. Make sure that an integrity policy is in place that enables people to report wrongdoing anonymously.