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Stewardship

Dear Colleagues:

Recent events regarding biosafety oversight at federal facilities have prompted the NIH and other HHS agencies to create the National Biosafety Stewardship Initiative to increase biosafety awareness, and enhance biomedical research security.

The Initiative is deliberately more about best practices in lab management than it is about imposing new regulations on the community. The request for a “stand-down” or review of biosafety practices and oversight has been strongly encouraged by the federal government.  Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) has provided the checklist below to facilitate your lab’s stewardship activities.  In addition, EH&S requests that you complete the attached form (fillable .pdf) to document your efforts to dispose of infectious agents.  We request that you return the attached form to EH&S by December 31, 2014.

  • Review: Re-examine your lab’s protocols, policies and procedures. Do they accurately reflect the best safety practices when performing work?  For assistance, see;
  •  Train: Determine that all of your staff are trained in safety practices.  EH&S offers classroom and online courses in Biosafety/bloodborne pathogens, recombinant DNA and viral vector biosafety. If lab staff need in-person refresher training or an in-lab consult, contact EH&S and we will be happy to provide it.
  • Inventory:  Perform a thorough review of your lab’s cold storage (refrigerators, freezers and common freezers/cold rooms).
    • When inspecting your cold storage, take care to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment: lab coat, safety glasses, gloves (cryoprotective gloves if necessary).
    • Update and maintain the inventory of your lab’s refrigerators, and freezers (include common freezers and shared cold rooms to which you have access to determine what belongs to your lab and whether such material should be disposed of).  Update signage that contains emergency contact information: http://ehs.columbia.edu/LabDoorSign.html
    • Check that all stocks of infectious agents and toxins in your inventory records are accurate and up-to-date.
    • Check labeling to determine that all infectious materials and toxins are identifiable.
    • Determine if any unknown stock material may constitute a high-risk group pathogen (e.g. select agent).  If unsure, contact EH&S. (See http://www.selectagents.gov/Select%20Agents%20and%20Toxins%20List.html)
    • Dispose of unneeded infectious agents and toxins through the regulated medical waste stream or autoclave destruction.  If you know that an unneeded material is non-infectious or toxic, dispose of it through the appropriate waste stream.  If assistance is needed to destroy unneeded stock please consult EH&S.

The National Biosafety Stewardship Initiative is an opportunity to strengthen biosafety and biosecurity year-round.   If the above practices are performed regularly, the benefits include protection of laboratory staff and the public at large and may even free up some valuable freezer space!

Sincerely,

G. Michael Purdy
Executive Vice President for Research

Click here for Attestation Form

Links for Additional Information

  1. Biosafety events and problems:
    • CDC lab incident: Anthrax

    http://www.cdc.gov/anthrax/news-multimedia/lab-incident/

  2. NIH memo: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-14-127.html

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