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Biological and Gene Technology Work Safety Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) The purpose of this policy is to

  1. minimise the risk of infection or harm to people and other organisms, or harm to the environment from the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specimens of human or animal origin, cytotoxic substances (carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens), pathogenic or infectious micro-organisms, pathogenic or infectious agents, imported biological material, and/or the uncontrolled release of hazardous biological materials;
  2. prevent harm during research or teaching at the University from the use of biological toxins; poisonous or venomous;
  3. ensure the University complies with legislation and with relevant Australian Standards regarding Security Sensitive Biological Agents (SSBA); biological material on the Defence Strategic Goods List; GMOs; and Quarantine.

(2) The policy applies to all University staff and students and extends to visitors and contractors who undertake work in laboratories.

(3) The University, as an accredited organisation under the Gene Technology Act, is required to have an Institutional Biosafety Committee. The University's committee is known as the Biosafety and Radiation Safety Committee (BRSC).

(4) This policy should be read in conjunction with the University's Work Health and Safety Policy, Risk Management Policy, and Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Control Procedure.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(5) For the purposes of this policy:

  1. adverse event - an undesired harmful effect resulting from exposure to a harmful biological agent; or the escape, unintentional release, spill, leak or loss of a potentially harmful biological agent or a genetically modified organism outside a certified facility.
  2. biohazard - any biological agent or material that poses a risk to human health or other living organisms, or to the environment.
  3. biological safety - a collective term for procedures and practices that are followed to minimise the risk of infection and other health effects from handling or being exposed to biological materials.
  4. genetically modified organism (GMO):
    1. an organism that has been modified by gene technology; or
    2. an organism that has inherited particular traits from an organism (the initial organism), being traits that occurred in the initial organism because of gene technology; or
    3. anything declared by the Gene Technology (GT) regulations to be a genetically modified organism, or that belongs to a class of things declared by the GT regulations to be genetically modified organisms; or any dealings in relation to a genetically modified organism; but does not include:
      1. a human being, if the human being is covered by paragraph c (i) only because the human being has undergone somatic cell gene therapy; or
      2. an organism declared by the GT regulations not to be a genetically modified organism, or that belongs to a class of organisms declared by the GT regulations not to be genetically modified organisms.
  5. imported biological materials - biological products imported into Australia.
  6. OGTR - Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. The Regulator is an independent statutory office holder responsible for administering the Gene Technology Act 2000.
  7. OGTR certified facilities - physical containment facilities, certified as complying with OGTR Guidelines, where certain dealings with GMOs may be conducted.
  8. (potentially infectious agents - biological agents capable of causing disease in a host.
  9. (pathogenic micro-organism - an infectious organism, usually microscopic, capable of causing disease in a host.
  10. Security Sensitive Biological Agent (SSBA) - a biological agent that is included in the List of Security Sensitive Biological Agents published by the Commonwealth Department of Health.
  11. specimen of human or animal origin - substances such as blood, tissues, organs, saliva, mucous, urine and cell lines.
  12. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) - written instructions that outline the safest and preferred method for undertaking a particular task, work practice, process, manipulation or technique. They include all potential hazards associated with the task, the risks posed by these hazards and the appropriate control measures required to eliminate or reduce the risks. Their purpose is to ensure the safety, quality and uniformity of a task among different people. They are developed by individual Schools or Institutes and form part of the application to the BRSC.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(6) The University requires its staff, students, researchers, contractors, visitors and others to adhere to this policy and to the University's Work Health and Safety Policy to maintain a safe and healthy environment by minimising the risks from biohazardous work procedures conducted in laboratories at the University's facilities.

(7) The University requires that:

  1. staff, students, researchers, visitors and others will apply to the BRSC to undertake biohazardous work procedures.
  2. biohazardous work procedures will only be undertaken in accordance with the application as approved by the BRSC. Such applications contain those authorized to do the work, their training requirements, the nature of the biohazardous material (including GMOs), conditions pertaining to their security, transportation, storage, handling and disposal, record keeping, and relevant SOPs.
  3. no biohazardous work will be undertaken without prior approval by the BRSC.
  4. regular inspections and audits (at least annually) of laboratories where biohazardous work is undertaken or organisms are being quarantined are conducted. The BRSC will oversee inspections that are required by regulatory authorities. Local work areas will be responsible for conducting regular workplace inspections of all other facilities.
  5. at the conclusion of a project using biohazardous material, the proper procedures are followed to ensure that material is appropriately handled through either disposal or transfer of responsibility to another authorised person.
  6. (contractors must have written approval from the facility manager before working in environments where a biohazardous procedure is being undertaken; and OGTR certified facilities.
  7. for emergency work in certified OGTR facilities, contractors must have written permission from: the facility manager; or one of the chair of the BRSC, a Deputy Chair of the BRSC; or the capital works representative on the BRSC. In the event that none of these options are available, approval should be given by an appropriate responsible person such as the School Technical Manager.
  8. an adverse event must be reported to the BRSC within 24 hours by the School Technical Manager.
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Section 4 - Procedures

(8) Nil.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(9) Supporting this policy are the Laboratory Safety Guidelines.