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Biorisk Management 

"Biorisk management” is the effective management of risks posed by working with infectious agents and toxins in laboratories; it includes a range of practices and procedures to ensure the biosecurity, ​biosafety, and biocontainment of those infectious agents and toxins. Biorisk management includes the full spectrum of safety and security measures for laboratories, from standard operating procedures to physical measures to individual practices in the laboratory. In this sec​tion, you will find information on biosafety, biosecurity, biocontainment and how all three concepts relate to each other.

Biosafety is the combination of practices, procedures, and equipment that protect laboratory workers, the public, and the environment from the infectious agents and toxins used in the laboratory. Biosafety equipment includes personal protective equipment, biosafety cabinets, and other specially designed devices. Biosafety also includes practices such as Standard Microbiological Practices and the practices identified for each biosafety level in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories. For international audiences, the World Health Organization (WHO) also published the Laboratory Biosafety ManualExit Icon. Laboratories are classified by biosafety levels based on the infectious agents and toxins they can work with and how they protect workers from those infectious agents and toxins. Appropriate biosafety levels should always be determined by a risk assessment of the experiment and the organism.

Biosecurity includes the measures taken to protect infectious agents and toxins from loss, theft, or misuse.  As the 2001 anthrax attacks proved, infectious agents and toxins can be misused to intentionally harm individuals or populations. Because there is the possibility of intentional misuse, infectious agents and toxins should be carefully guarded. Research sometimes produces results that also could be misused, which is called dual use research of concern. The recent guidance documents relating to dual use research of concern​ are very relevant to biosecurity today.

Physical security includes the physical barriers and other methods used to keep unauthorized personnel out of laboratories, such as fences and key coded locks on laboratory doors or refrigerators. Information security focuses on preventing unauthorized access to the information gathered about infectious agents and toxins. Personnel reliability​ measures ensure that all workers allowed access to high containment biological laboratories are trustworthy and reliable. Assessments of personnel reliability have evolved to focus on the whole person, not just a resume or a simple background check.

Biocontainment addresses the design of safety equipment and laboratories that will effectively contain infectious agents and toxins and prevent an accidental release. Laboratory design is a crucial aspect of biosafety and is a complex area of study. Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories describes very specific construction requirements for biological laboratories to ensure appropriate containment of all biological materials at all biosafety levels. Biosafety cabinets and other biosafety equipment​, such as containment centrifuges, are also used to contain infectious agents and toxins and protect laboratory workers.

This page last reviewed: May 31, 2018