Biosafety describes the containment principles, technologies, and operational practices that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to pathogens or toxins, or their accidental release (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2015). These include physical containment and operational practices for facilities where these materials are handled or stored. Everyone handling infectious material or toxins needs to understand the risks associated with the material they are handling, and ways to prevent exposure of workers and release into the environment. For example, if a pathogen is easily transmitted by aerosols, one would consider how to reduce or contain aerosols, or take added precautions when there is a risk of generating aerosols. The goal of biosafety then is to contain infectious material and toxins safely within the laboratory (workplace) environment.
Biosafety Authorization Application Form
Any activities conducted at VIU facilities or affiliated institutions that involve biohazardous agents requires a biosafety authorization. Applications to work with biohazardous materials can be accessed through the Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office
Local Biosafety Risk Assessments
VIU faculty and staff are required to document their assessments of the risks associated to the hazardous materials they are handling and storing. Working safely with biohazardous agents encompasses not only the people but also the facilities, equipment, procedures used, and the environment. Understanding how all the elements work together is essential for determining the risk of the work being done. It is important for everyone to understand the risks from the hazards including biohazardous materials, chemicals, disinfectants/cleaners, equipment, and environmental emergencies such as spills.
Local Risk Assessments are embedded within your application to work with biohazardous materials at VIU. To apply, please go to the Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office website.
Identifying research/teaching activities with Dual-Use potential
A key component to mitigating risk is the early identification of research activities that could be misused to the detriment of humans, the animal population, the environment, or national security. Every research project should be reviewed for dual-use potential during the planning stages, throughout the course of the project (including when there are unexpected results), and prior to the use or dissemination of the results (including publication). The on-going review process should be a shared responsibility between individuals involved in the design and conduct of research, as well as members of the organization that oversee the facility’s biosafety and biosecurity practices.
Identification includes an evaluation of the proposed research/teaching activity and the organisms to be used. The pathogens handled and work performed are evaluated from the early planning stages until the work is complete and the results analyzed, as dual-use potential can appear at any time, often inadvertently. There are several considerations that can help guide decisions on whether work has a dual-use potential.
The questions that you should be asking to determine this potential can be found through this Public Health Agency of Canada website.