Are laboratory employees sufficiently aware of how to act in the event of an unusual situation in the laboratory? Employees throughout the organization should be familiar with their own response plans, which describe which internal and external assistance (services) can be called in in the event of a disaster. During a scenario workshop at the Biosecurity Knowledge Day, participants exchanged how response plans can help in this situation.
The scenario: freezer in BSL3 lab not locked
It's Tuesday morning, you arrive at your workplace first. After you have gone through the final details for your experiment at your desk, you enter the BSL3 lab according to the agreed procedures and start preparing the supplies for the experiment. You walk to the freezer to grab the samples for the research and see that the lock is open...
You were the last person to visit the lab yesterday, you went into the freezer and you are sure that you closed it again according to the applicable procedures. You check in the pass system/logbook to see if anyone else has been inside, but this is not the case. Is this sufficient reason to postpone the experiment and investigate what might have happened?
Would you notice if samples disappeared from the freezer? And what do you do if it turns out that 7 of your C. burnetii samples are missing?
Risks and perspective for action
An adequate response plan for an organization should consist of various detailed scenarios with associated procedures and actions in the field of biosafety and biosecurity. Working agreements should have been made about this with internal parties such as management, security, BSO, company emergency services and cleaning and also coordinated with relevant external parties, including the safety region, fire brigade, public health service or or police. It is important to regularly practice different scenarios with all relevant parties, so that in emergency situations you can fall back on existing procedures and partnerships.
To check with employees from different organizational units to what extent they know how to act in such a scenario, a scenario discussion is an accessible way to gauge the extent to which employees are familiar with this.
What potential risks may be involved? Have the samples been unsuspectingly moved by a colleague, have they been broken into by malicious parties, or is this an insider threat? What is the risk to your own health and that of colleagues or even local residents and public health? When should security be involved? Who has the authority to ban the police if they insist on entering the BSL3 lab for trace evidence?
Who do you inform within your organization and when and what responsibility and role do you have? Are external emergency services aware of the risks of BSL3 laboratories? Should such a biosecurity risk be reported and to whom?
If the above questions cannot be answered or only partially answered, we advise you to check for yourself how this is arranged within your own organization and what your own role is in this. This is to be as prepared as possible for a possible emergency. It does not always have to be a burglary, an accident can also happen around the corner...
Sharing Your Scenario
If you would like to discuss how to handle this scenario with the Biosecurity Office or if you have encountered a biosecurity scenario that you would like to share with colleagues in the field, please feel free to contact us. The Biosecurity Office can be reached at email@example.com.