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What Is Biosafety Training and Why Is It Important?

Posted by Amber Poltl on Mar 14, 2024 5:53:47 PM

Biosafety training, which comprises numerous elements that make up biosafety (e.g., bloodborne pathogens training, emergency preparedness and response training, biohazardous waste training, etc.) is essential for anyone working in a research laboratory that works with a variety of biological agents. It equips personnel with knowledge and skills necessary to handle biological materials safely and responsibly. These types of training are intended to protect the health and well-being of laboratory personnel, the broader community, and the environment.

What are the Goals of Biosafety Training?

Biosafety training has several key goals, but the priority is to reduce the risks of biological agents through awareness and work practices:

  • Communicate containment measures associated with biological risk groups and biosafety levels. 
    • Awareness of biological agents may be the utmost important aspect of biosafety training. Biological agents are classified according to their risk level when considering infectivity, pathogenicity and availability of preventive measures and treatments for the corresponding disease. Based on the biosafety risk assessment and biological agents, specific biosafety levels (BSL-1 to BSL-4) are designated, each with increasingly stringent containment requirements. It’s important to conduct biosafety assessments to understand the types of hazards that may be encountered. 
  • Educate laboratory personnel on safe practices for handling biological materials and the prevention of laboratory acquired infections.
    • Biosafety training equips laboratory personnel with the specific knowledge and skills needed to work safely with biological agents. Laboratory-acquired infections are a significant threat to lab personnel. Biosafety training is a control in minimizing the risk of laboratory acquired infections by emphasizing safe work practices. Training topics include hand hygiene, sharps and needle handling, proper handling techniques for biological materials to reduce the risk of exposure, decontamination procedures, and waste disposal practices.
  • Ensure compliance with regulations.
    • Research involving biological agents is subject to several regulations (e.g., blood borne pathogens, infectious waste management, biomedical waste, transportation, etc.). Biosafety training informs relevant personnel to adhere to these regulations to prevent non-compliance, and more importantly - exposure to a deleterious agent. It’s important that a compliance register is maintained and updated to stay ahead of new or changing regulations. 

What are the Key Components of Biosafety Training?

Effective biosafety training covers several crucial components:

  • Laboratory Design and Biocontainment Controls: Engineering controls, such as controlled access, biosafety cabinets (BSCs), and ventilation systems, minimize biohazard risks. Sealed containers/secondary containers to contain biological materials and prevent exposures are equally critical.
    • Engineering controls that maintain a safe research environment are critical systems. Engineering controls, such as how ventilation systems maintain negative pressure rooms so contaminated air doesn’t reach common work areas, are vitally important for reducing the risk of exposure to airborne biohazardous contaminants.
    • The BSC is designed to reduce the potential escape of biological material into the worker's environment and to remove contaminants from the research work zone. There are different classes of BSCs and the selection of the class is dependent on the types of biological agents being handled. BSCs must be tested and certified. Biohazardous waste disposal and handling should be included, as well. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Training instructs personnel on proper selection, use, maintenance, and disposal of PPE to ensure optimal protection against biohazards.
    • PPE serves as a last line of defense against biohazards. Biosafety training focuses on selecting the appropriate PPE based on the specific risks. This includes understanding the various types of PPE from gloves and respirators to gowns and eye protection. Training should emphasize the proper procedures for donning, doffing, maintaining, and disposing of PPE to ensure its effectiveness in protecting researchers from exposure. The use of respiratory protection requires additional screening and training.  
  • Emergency Procedures: Preparedness and response to emergencies like spills and exposures must be covered. 
    • Emergency preparedness and response training must cover procedures to handle spills and exposures, an exposure control plan (i.e., bloodborne pathogens training), accessing emergency contact information, and how to report an incident involving biohazards. 

How to Monitor Biosafety Performance

Monitoring biosafety performance is an ongoing process that should be integrated with the continual improvement of an organization’s EHS management system. Automating performance monitoring ensures the effectiveness of training and adherence to safety protocols. This typically involves regular inspections, incident reporting, data analysis and trending, and program evaluation to identify areas for improvement. The formation of a biosafety committee would also improve performance monitoring. 

Biosafety training plays a role in protecting lab personnel and can safeguard the broader community from potential outbreaks and environmental contamination. Training should be periodically evaluated to ensure its addressing the risks in your organization and establishing an adequate level of competence. 

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