Biosafety - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

This policy outlines the University’s commitment to protect the health and safety of people and the environment by managing risks posed by work involving biological material, and to ensure compliance with relevant legislative requirements.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Accredited Organisation - an organisation or entity that has been accredited by the OGTR for GM research/dealings. 

Biosafety - measures relating to the protection of an environment or population etc. from contamination with or infection by a biological agent (Oxford English Dictionary)

Dealing - includes any procedure that involves a GM/GMO/GMMO, as described in PPL 2.40.02 Biosafety Requirements

Department of Agriculture-Biosecurity (DAgB) - Commonwealth Department of Agriculture section responsible for the control of biological imports and quarantine 

DoH – Commonwealth Department of Health (formerly Department of Health and Ageing)

DSGL – Defence Strategic Goods List, identified in Regulation 13E of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 (C’th) 

GM/GMO/GMMO – Genetically Modified/Genetically Modified Organism/Genetically Modified Microorganism

High Risk Biological Material – specified by the UQ IBC as described in PPL 2.40.15 Working with Potentially Hazardous Biologicals

IBC - Institutional Biosafety Committee, established by an Accredited Organisation, as required by the OGTR

IBSC - Institutional Biosafety Sub-Committee

OGTR -  Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

Risk Assessment/Risk Management – a system of identifying hazards and evaluating risk – as described in PPL 2.10.08 Work Health and Safety Risk Assessment and Management 

SSBA - Security Sensitive Biological Agents- biological agents as regulated by the National Health Security Act 2007 (C’th)

Workers - Workers include staff, students (undergraduate and postgraduate), visitors, volunteers and contractors

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This policy applies to all staff, students, visitors, volunteers and contractors who are working with biological material or working in areas where biological material is used.

4. Policy Statement

The University of Queensland is dedicated to providing a safe and healthy work environment and pursues its strategic and operational objectives in a responsible manner, having a duty of care to its workers, the greater public and the environment.

The University of Queensland places a high priority on educating its workers on all occupational health and safety matters. The University Occupational Health and Safety Division, Institutional Biosafety Committee and Biosafety Advisors provide education, information and support to University workers that enables them to take responsibility for work involving biological material and their compliance requirements.

All University workers who are working with biological material or in areas where work with biological material is being undertaken are to be aware of, and abide by the relevant legislation, standards, procedures and guidelines that apply to them and the work that they are performing. This encompasses work with, but not exclusively, high-risk biological material (Risk Groups 2, 3 and 4), dealings involving Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Quarantine material, toxic or venomous animals, Security Sensitive Biological Agents (SSBAs) and biological materials listed on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL).

This policy should be read in conjunction with the associated biosafety procedures and guidelines, and the Institutional Biosafety Committee Terms of Reference and Procedures document.

Any person who intentionally chooses not to comply with these requirements may be committing research misconduct, see PPL 4.20.05 Research Misconduct, or be in breach of the relevant legislative requirements.

5. Compliance

When conducting work with biological material, the University is required by law to abide by the requirements set out in the following Acts and Regulations:

  • Gene Technology Act 2000 (C’th), and Regulations 2001 (C’th) and associated corresponding Queensland legislation (Gene Technology Act 2001 (Qld) and Gene Technology Regulations 2002 (Qld));
  • Quarantine Act 1908 (C’th) and Quarantine Regulations 2000 (C’th);
  • Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Regulations (Qld);
  • National Health Security Act 2007 (C’th) and Regulations 2008 (C’th)
  • Dangerous Goods Regulations (International)
  • Environmental Protection Act (1994)
  • Plus any other Act or Regulation with biosafety implications that may come into force.

Further to this, the following Codes, Standards and Guidelines have biosafety implications and should be adhered to. Where the Code, Standard or Guideline is referenced in a regulation, it will be treated as a legislative instrument, otherwise it will be taken as a guide for best practice. In the latter case, the University will abide by the requirements except where this is not practically possible, in which case a risk management approach must be employed that meets the approval of the OHS Division and the IBC.

  • Guidelines issued by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) as well as any directive issued by the OGTR and Department of Health (DoH);
  • Guidelines and procedures issued by the Department of Agriculture – Biosecurity;
  • Queensland Biotechnology Code of Ethics 2006;
  • Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG);
  • AS/NZ 2243.3 Safety in Laboratories – Part 3 Microbiological safety and containment;
  • AS/NZ 2243.1 Design of laboratories;
  • AS 4834 Packaging for surface transport of biological material that may cause disease in humans, animals and plants;
  • The Defence Strategic Goods List 1996 (C’th), as issued by The Department of Defence;
  • Plus any other Standards called into effect from time to time.

In order to maintain compliance, the University must ensure the following conditions are met:

  • Maintain its status as an Accredited Organisation pursuant to s98 of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (C’th) and must continue to meet the OGTR requirements and conditions of the Guidelines for Accreditation of Organisations.
  • Continue to maintain its own IBC with appropriate expertise and resources to assess applications relating to work involving GMOs and/or high risk biological work. 
  • All persons working on high risk biological material or GMO/GMMOs are directed to follow appropriate risk management procedures and be properly trained and are competent in working with such material.
  • Containment facilities should meet the requirements in the relevant guidelines or standards for the containment, handling, storage and disposal of the type of organism or process being undertaken, and that these facilities are inspected regularly as per regulatory requirements.
  • Provide information and advice to workers on the requirements of working with biological materials, including procedures, guidelines and training.
Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael
Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael