Biosafety Committee

What is biosafety?

The maintenance of safe conditions in biological research to prevent harm to workers, non-laboratory organisms, and the environment.

Who oversees biosafety at Brandon University?

In accordance with the University Senate, the Brandon University Biosafety Committee (BUBC) has been mandated to develop relevant policies and approval procedures governing the use of biohazards on campus and review and verify that Brandon University research proposals involving the use of biohazardous materials adhere to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Containment Standards for Veterinary Facilities.

What are biohazards?

A biohazard is a biological agent, such as an infectious microorganism or a material produced by such an organism, that constitutes a threat to humans, plants or animals. Biohazardous infectious material falls under Class D, Division 3 of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

How do I recognize a biohazard?

The WHMIS uses a classification scheme to group chemicals with similar properties or hazards. Each class has a specific symbol to help people identify the hazard quickly. Biohazardous infectious materials (Division 3, Class D) are represented by a symbol (see the image above) that looks like three “c”s joined together with a little circle in the middle. This symbol can appear on many things including labels, waste and sharps containers, and signs.

Sources of biological hazards include animals, bacteria, birds, fungi, humans, insects, parasites, plants, and viruses. Biohazardous infectious materials are usually found in hospitals, laboratories, research facilities, and veterinary practices. Workers assume that materials they work with are dangerous and proper protection and protocols are used at all times.

What are the Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines?

Health Canada (2004) has established four classifications or risk groups, for biohazards:

Risk Group 1 (low individual and community risk)

Any biological agent that is unlikely to cause disease in healthy workers or animals.

Risk Group 2 (moderate individual risk, low community risk)

Any pathogen that can cause human disease but, under normal circumstances, is unlikely to be a serious hazard to laboratory workers, the community, livestock or the environment.

Laboratory exposures rarely cause infection leading to serious disease; effective treatment and preventive measures are available, and the risk of spread is limited.

Risk Group 3 (high individual risk, low community risk)

Any pathogen that usually causes serious human disease or can result in serious economic consequences but does not ordinarily spread by casual contact from one individual to another, or that causes diseases treatable by antimicrobial or antiparasitic agents.

Risk Group 4 (high individual risk, high community risk)

Any pathogen that usually produces very serious human disease, often untreatable, and may be readily transmitted from one individual to another, or from animal to human or vice-versa, directly or indirectly, or by casual contact.

To control these risks, Health Canada (2004) has outlined four containment levels. These containment levels outline the physical requirements of the lab (e.g., engineering, operation, technical requirements). In association with these containment levels, the BUBC requires strict adherence to operational procedures for such facilities as outlined in the Brandon University Biosafety Practices.

What types of biosafety labs do we have at BU?

BU has level 1 and 2 labs. All of these teaching and research labs are required to adhere to government standards to ensure the safety of the University’s faculty, staff, and students and the community at large. The use of biohazards requiring containment levels 3 and 4 are not permitted at Brandon University.

References

Canadian Biosafety Standards & Guidelines

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (2006). WHMIS – Classification.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2007). Containment standards for veterinary facilities.