Biosafety General Information

Biosafety is the containment principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to biological material and toxins, or their accidental release.

Biosafety General Information

What are the responsibilities of the Principal Investigator?

  • Obtain a Biosafety Permit through the UBC Research Information System (RISe) prior to using, handling, storing and disposing any hazardous material. If you already have an account, click here.
  • Provide an authorized users list both on site and within the RISe on-line system.
  • Ensure that a written procedure is in place for the use, handling, storage and disposal of all biological materials, and for any processes producing hazardous particulates. Some procedures may be found under Standards, Guideline and Resources.
  • Ensure that all users (staff, faculty, students and visitors) have the appropriate documented orientation and training for the specific hazardous material being handled and/or processes being performed.
  • Inform The University through the Biosafety Committee or RMS Research Safety Office of any changes to the work being performed and the purchase/transfer/destruction of any biological materials.
  • Ensure all incidents/accident are reported via the Central Accident/Incident Reporting System (UBC CAIRS).

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What is the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)?

The IBC includes faculty members selected or appointed because of their expertise or stake in biological safety matters. Collectively, these members advise UBC management and the Biosafety Officer (BSO) on biosafety matters in general, and the effectiveness of Biosafety Programs within the University. Other members include Safety Representatives for specific areas.

Complete information including the terms of reference can be found at the Office of Research Services.

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What is a Biosafety risk assessments?

Researchers are required to document their assessment of the risks associated to the materials they are handling and storing. Working safely with biologicals including animals encompasses not only the people and the animals, but also the facilities, equipment, procedures used, and 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 animals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, cleaners, biologicals, radiologicals, equipment, and environmental emergencies.

  1. Biological Agent: The classification of biological materials is referred to Risk Group in Biosafety. To help determine which risk group how to classify your organism, see the following sites:
  1. Host (You): The health and experience of each individual is also a factor that needs to be considered. To help determine the immune status of an individual and available vaccines and treatments UBC offers the following services:
  1. Environmental Factors: The final component of a risk assessment is to assess the environment in which the work is occurring. Specifics such as quantity of the agent, aerosol production and the usage of sharps and needles must be considered. Additionally factors such as the other research in the surrounding area, the number of people working, equipment, structural integrity of the room (counters, floors, walls), and the safety controls available.

When added all together the overall risk assessment will allow for the classification of the laboratory space. Containment Level 1 to 4. More information can be found in the Biosafety Training Manual or the Canadian Biosafety Standards.

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What are Biosafety risk controls?

In addition to the Hierarchy of Controls there are specific controls commonly required for Biological Research. Information on engineering controls including the functions of Biosafety Cabinets are found in Section 3 of the Biosafety Training Manual (pdf).

Biosafety Cabinet Certification is required:

  • Annually regardless of what the cabinet is used for.
  • When installed
  • After being moved
  • After major services or repairs

Certification Company for UBC – 2014-2019 is HEPA Filter Services:

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What about plants, insects, pests, environmental samples and GMOs?

Environmental Biological Hazards are now included in the Biosafety Committee purview to help UBC become compliant under the various Environmental Regulations, both federally and provincially. This means if you are using an Environmental Biological Hazard you are required to have a Biosafety Permit. Environmental Biological Hazards include but are not limited to:

  • Invasive species – plants, insects, pests (plant and aquatic). Contact the RMS Research Safety Office to determine if your organism is considered to be invasive.
  • Non-indigenous – plants, insects, soil, water, animal feces
  • Genetically engineered

Genetically engineered organisms are defined as:

  • The plant, animal or microorganism exhibits characteristics that were not previously observed in that plant, animal or microorganism,
  • The plant, animal or microorganism no longer exhibits characteristics that were previously observed in that plant, animal or microorganism, or
  • One or more characteristics of the plant, animal or microorganism no longer fall within the anticipated range for that plant, animal or microorganism.

Tracking genetically engineered organisms has always been required, but will now be specifically tracked using RISe. Due to their minimal risk we are excluding detailed lists for non-pathogenic E.coli, Arabidopsis, Chlamydomonas, Populus, fruit flies and transgenic mice.

If there are other organisms that should be excluded, please contact RMS Research Safety Office.

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