How trustworthy are the personnel in your organisation? Does your organisation ask for references during the selection procedure? What type of background screening is important for personnel security in your organisation?

To ensure effective biosafety and biosecurity in the organisation, personnel in high-risk laboratories must be able to trust each other. Therefore, the selection procedure should focus not only on the qualifications of applicants, but also on whether they are compatible with the group and whether they have caused safety or security problems in the past while working for other employers. Depending on the responsibilities associated with a specific job, different types of background screening can be used, ranging from verifying references to criminal record checks or security investigations. Make sure your organisation has confidential counsellors or an integrity programme in place so that employees can identify and report abnormal situations.


Verifying references

Honest and trustworthy employees are important for security in high-risk laboratories and for the security culture within the organisation. During the selection procedure, it is important to check whether the CV is based on actual qualifications and that diplomas are genuine. To make sure that that no incidents have taken place at previous employers, you can contact these employers. Employees at high-risk laboratories must be able to trust each other's knowledge and expertise. During the selection procedure you should therefore consider whether the candidate will be compatible with the group and will contribute to the security culture in the organisation.


Screening for illegal acts

A Certificate of Conduct (Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag – VOG) involves screening for records of illegal acts that may be relevant to a specific job. The Certificate of Conduct indicates that the past behaviour of the candidate is not an obstacle for the specific task or job. The employer determines the specific screening profile. In 2014 the National Counterterrorism and Security Coordinator (abbreviated as NCTV in Dutch) together with the Justis screening authority developed a manual with screening profiles for the requesting a Certificate of Conduct. This manual is intended for organisations in which employees work with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) substances.
In the manual, five screening profiles are described for various employees: those 'working with CBRN substances’, 'purchasing CBRN substances', ‘security of CBRN substances',' transporting CBRN substances' and 'Facility tasks and management at locations with CBRN substances'. If you use this description and the corresponding screening profile on the application for the Certificate of Conduct, Justis will implement a screening period of 10 years, instead of the standard 4 years. The manual contains a detailed description of the profiles, explanations about screening policy, and can help you design or implement a screening policy in your organisation.


Security screening

Some organisations – these are usually governmental organisations – have employees in positions that require a government security screening. Such employees are appointed by the government minister. All candidates for such a position must have a ministerial certificate of no objection (Verklaring van geen bezwaar – VGB), for which the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) conducts a security investigation. Employees who hold such a position may come into contact with classified information or state secrets. A background check is therefore conducted to make sure they do not pose a risk to national security. If there are positions within your organisation that require a government security screening, the security manager will be aware of this.


Security culture and integrity

Verifying the references and screening the background of personnel does not guarantee that they are honest and trustworthy and does not exempt them from other controls. Screening enhances other security measures such as physical security and information security, but does not replace them. Personal circumstances can change, and people’s reactions to situations can change as well. Therefore, remain alert to changes in the behaviour of personnel and to abnormal situations, and ensure that confidential counsellors or an integrity programme are available within the organisation. The security culture of an organisation is benefitted by conscientious, well-trained employees. Do you need support for training and educating employees? Then contact the Biosecurity Office for lectures or workshops or for assistance with designing suitable programs for your organisation: