Learn about biosafety and how it is practiced to protect people and property from spreading dangerous organisms.
Published 27 Jan 2023
Biosafety is the practice of following safety procedures and implementing protective measures to prevent the spread of harmful organisms. It includes awareness, prevention, containment, and management of biosecurity risks in medical or other settings. Research, diagnostics, clinical care, and education are often done in a safe environment to reduce the risk of contamination with or transmission of dangerous pathogens.
Biosafety has many benefits, including the following.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that biosafety is beneficial because it allows for analyzing and managing food safety risks, increases collaboration between sectors, improves food safety, and facilitates trade.
Farms and livestock businesses employ biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of diseases within their operations and their potential impact on adjacent farms and communities. These measures may include screening animals for illness, restricting movement and contact with other animals, testing water supplies for contaminants, and providing appropriate housing.
Biosafety in the environment involves the prevention and control of plant diseases, animal infestations and illnesses, zoonotic diseases passed from animals to people, genetically modified organisms and their products, and the management of genotypes and invasive species.
Biosafety is about eliminating or minimizing biological contamination, so there are three critical concepts in the field:
Many governing bodies and regulations mandate the safety protocols needed to protect people, animals, and the environment from the potential harm of biohazardous materials. These include:
The purpose of BRAI is to enforce the rules of the Bill enacted in Parliament in 2013 about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This agency had ratified the Cartagena Protocol, an agreement between nations governing the transportation of genetically modified organisms.
CTNBio, established by the Ministry of Science and Technology, is responsible for regulation and guidance related to biotechnology activities to protect human health and the environment from hazardous effects.
The GEAC, India’s premier biotechnology regulatory body, oversees the use, production, storage, export, and import of hazardous microorganisms or genetically-engineered organisms and cells within India.
IBC oversees research involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, as mandated by the National Institutes of Health. The IBC reviews and approves all relevant projects and ensures they comply with the NIH Guidelines.
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There are four biosafety levels with designated regulations to contain microbes and biological agents. The containment level is based predominantly on the infectivity, severity of illness, transmission capacity, and type of work conducted. The source of the microbe or agent and how exposure occurs are also factors.
The various biosafety levels require different measures of containment, including:
Below are detailed descriptions of each biosafety level:
Biosafety Level 1 is the lowest and applies to agents without threat to the laboratory personnel or the environment. At this level, agents don’t need to be isolated from the general building, such as a non-pathogenic E. coli strain.
The lab research takes place on the benches without any specialized contamination gear. The following are characteristics of a biosafety level 1 facility:
BSL-2 is comprised of agents that cause human illnesses, for instance, encephalitis virus, HIV, and Staphylococcus aureus. These laboratories require special precautions to protect personnel from hazards such as cuts and ingestions.
Biosafety Level 2 laboratories should follow the following practices:
Research conducted at BSL-3 is essential in the fight against hazardous pathogens, such as the West Nile virus and yellow fever virus. The microbes being worked on are so dangerous that work must always be supervised and registered with relevant government organizations.
Scientists undertaking experiments under these conditions also need to receive medical surveillance for their safety; access to such labs is highly restricted at all times.
A BSL 3 laboratory must meet the following requirements:
In this biosafety level, people function under unsafe circumstances, i.e., in contact with foreign microbes. If anyone contracts these microbes, it could also take them to their demise. Therefore, adequate preventive action is essential at level 4. A Biosafety level 4 laboratory is exceptionally isolated, often situated in a limited region distant from home areas.
Biosafety level 4 laboratories have the following requirements:
While biosafety relates mainly to measures that are taken to minimize the risk of exposure when dealing with potentially hazardous situations or agents, biohazard is more about identifying which organisms pose a threat before developing procedures for reducing that risk.
Below is a description of “The Cartagena Protocol” on biosafety.
The introduction of genetic engineering and advancements in biotechnology have also posed a potential threat to human and environmental health. Different regulatory bodies have established biosafety protocols to minimize the risks associated with biological materials. These guidelines are crucial to reduce the risk of dangerous illnesses being transmitted from animals to humans, setting parameters for fending off animal infestations and other hazardous issues, etc.
Biosafety protocols are essential for personnel working in labs and other facilities that handle microbes, prions, and related products. These protocols consist of rules, policies, and procedures to be followed. They were developed to reduce the risks of contamination, accidental release, and cross-contamination from laboratory activities.
Due to the potential risks associated with working on harmful biohazards, it's essential to ensure that safety protocols are followed. SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) provides an easy-to-use platform for creating and managing safety checklists, tracking incidents, and monitoring compliance. It helps ensure that all personnel abides by all safety guidelines and procedures, resulting in a safe, healthy environment for everyone.
Here are some ways SafetyCulture can help you with your lab safety:
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.
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