Here we present another current scenario with regard to biosecurity. This time it is a scenario about unexpected scientific results. Is this scenario recognizable? What would you do in such a case? How does your organization deal with this? What does this mean for biosecurity?
The scenario: maintenance engineer
A mechanic from outside the organization visits the BSL-III lab to repair equipment. According to the protocol, it is checked whether a maintenance appointment has been scheduled. This appears to be the case, although the mechanic is two hours early. The mechanic is admitted into the laboratory, also in accordance with protocol, accompanied by an employee. The repair turns out to be complicated and takes a long time. The employee decides to let the mechanic continue working during the coffee break while the other employees leave the laboratory. After the mechanic has left, it appears that some ampoules with high-risk pathogens and associated protocols are missing.
Risks and mitigation suggestions
In organizations that work with high-risk pathogens, authorization systems have been set up with limited access to vital areas. Employees with access to these vital areas are trained not to let unauthorized persons in. Nevertheless, admitting unauthorized persons for maintenance and repairs is sometimes necessary. Your organization can be vulnerable especially in deviating situations. Unauthorized persons can cause damage to the vital area or steal high-risk material. That is why it is also important for such deviating situations that protocols are drawn up on how to act and that employees deal with them consciously and alertly. In any case, ensure identity checks on unauthorized persons and record who has had access to vital areas when (for example outside working hours). Try to create a culture of alertness among employees and offer the possibility to identify abnormal situations and possible safety risks.
Share your scenario
Would you like to discuss further with the Biosecurity Office about how to deal with this scenario, do not hesitate to contact us. If you encounter a biosecurity scenario that you would like to share with colleagues, let us know! The Biosecurity Office can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.