'Safety stand-down' deadline for labs nears

In light of three recent biosafety and biosecurity incidents at federal laboratories, the White House has directed all federal departments and agencies -- including the USDA, NIH, CDC, FDA, EPA and others -- that operate facilities that possess, use or transfer human, animal or plant infectious agents and toxins and/or recombinant/synthetic nucleic acids to perform a “Safety Stand-Down.”

The deadline for phase one is March 13.

In a continuing effort to meet best practices at Mississippi State, the Office of Research and Economic Development and the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine have implemented a phased approach in order to ensure that everyone has sufficient time to respond. MSU is requiring all principal investigators who conduct research at Biosafety Level 2 to participate in a phased plan to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Planned activities in phase one include:

-- A sweep of all areas used to store human, animal or plant infectious agents and toxins and/or recombinant/synthetic nucleic acids including cabinets, drawers, shelves, refrigerators, freezers, etc. This sweep would also include any carcasses/tissues containing potentially infectious agents. All of the above described biohazardous material should be identified, inventoried and destroyed if no longer needed or is unidentifiable.

-- A review of all biosafety and biosecurity procedures including work practices and inventory management programs.

-- A review of training with all study personnel.

-- Brainstorm activities on how to enhance the facility biosafety culture.

The second phase will be the release of a comprehensive on-line biosafety training course by early fall this year. The online course will allow efficiency in that researchers and students can complete the training at a time that is convenient for the individual. The biosafety officer is always available to provide customized live training for a particular group upon request.

Department heads are encouraged to ask all Biosafety Level 1 labs to also participate.

This will be an excellent opportunity to clean out and clean up your labs, and with plans to open a BSL-3 lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine, this will demonstrate MSU’s effort in promoting safe and secure practices in laboratory facilities while protecting workers and the public, and preventing potential damage to plant and animal health.

The university's biosafety office and Institutional Biosafety Committee are available to help and answer any questions.

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