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Biosafety Risk Management Program

The Biosafety Risk Management Program is to maintain biosafety within laboratories.

Since 2014, given the occurrence of Ebola virus and other infectious organisms, the safety of laboratory staff and other personnel attracted much attention and concern. The laboratory measures that had been very effective until this time were deemed to be insufficient for handling very infectious and lethal organisms, such as hemorrhagic fevers, that could spread across populations. Over this time, a number of safety incidents were reported in the U.S. that involved the handling of biological agents and toxins in laboratories.  As a result, Federal and State agencies worked to develop more robust safety and security systems with a focus on how samples that could contain highly infectious agents are received and handled by laboratories.  The goal was to significantly reduce or eliminate any possibility of personnel being exposed to an infectious agent.

In the latter part of 2015, the federal government awarded funds to state public health laboratories across the U.S. via the Environmental Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant to create the position of Biosafety-Biosecurity Officer.  In Delaware, this position covered a number of essential responsibilities – i.e., perform biosafety risk assessments within the Delaware Public Health Laboratory and do the same for all clinical and environmental laboratories in Delaware.   

To date, five clinical (three hospital) laboratories have been assessed. More are being scheduled to be completed in the coming months. These and other laboratories to be assessed face the possibility of receiving specimens that may harbor highly “infectious” agents, such as Ebola virus or Bacillus anthracis. For this reason, detailed audits are performed, which focus on minimizing or eliminating exposure risks for laboratory staff. Once risks are identified, risk mitigation strategies and recommendations are made to the laboratory administrations. 

Once this initial series of risk assessments are completed for all clinical and environmental laboratories, a process for working with the Biosafety Officer, as a continuing resource, will follow. This will include the distribution of reference sources that support a laboratory’s biosafety management program. At this point, the Biosafety Officer will assist each laboratory in developing Standard Operating Procedures for future risk assessments, templates for reporting results, a biosafety manual, and procedures for staff and Administration to follow in the event of an unexpected exposure. 

To learn more or schedule an assessment please contact Delaware Public Health Laboratory.

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