Working in a PC3 Facility - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures have been developed according to the requirements of the Gene Technology Regulator, and those stipulated in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010, for persons working in or intending to work in UQ facilities classified as Physical Containment level 3.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

DAgB – Commonwealth Department of Agriculture - Biosecurity (previously DAFF (Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)/AQIS (Australian Quarantine Inspection Service)).

GM/GMO - Genetically Modified/ Genetically Modified Organism.

IBC  - Institutional Biosafety Committee, established by UQ as a requirement of the OGTR.

OGTR - Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

PC1, PC2, PC3 -  Physical Containment facility level 1, 2, 3 etc.

Risk Group 1-4 (RG1-4) - Infectious micro-organisms as defined in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010, Risk Group 1 being the lowest risk and Risk Group 4 being the highest risk.

WHO - World Health Organisation.

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to all staff, students, visitors and volunteers who are working in facilities classified as Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) according to the Gene Technology Regulator and/or AS/NZS 2243.3 2010.

4. Procedures Statement

These procedures assist workers in ensuring that they are compliant with the requirements from relevant legislation, regulations and guidelines that apply to them and the work they are performing when working in facilities classified as PC3.

5. Infectious Microorganisms Risk Group 3 (RG3)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorised all infectious microorganisms into four main categories, and advises that each country consider these categories and the risks present in their country environment. In Australia, the recommended risk category definitions are detailed in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010 Safety in Laboratories - Microbiological safety and containment. 

Any infectious microorganism listed in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010 as risk group 3 (RG3) must be contained in a Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) facility. 

Where an infectious microorganism is not listed as RG3 in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010, but is listed in another publication indicating that it is RG3, then it shall be treated as RG3 at the University. For example, an infectious microorganism listed as RG3 in the Canadian Public Health Agency pathogen data safety sheets shall also be treated as RG3 at the University unless otherwise assessed by the UQ Institutional Biosafety Committee (UQ IBC) as requiring a different level of containment.

In the case of new and emerging diseases or infectious agents where a risk category has not been assigned, they shall be treated according to the available information and assessed by the IBC. Further to this, the IBC may advise that certain Risk Group 2 infectious microorganisms be contained in a PC3 facility. For instance any Risk Group 2 infectious microorganism that is assigned special consideration or precautions in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010 and a risk assessment has determined that a PC3 facility is advisable.

5.1 Certified containment facilities

Facilities for containing Risk Group 3 infectious microorganisms must meet the requirements as stipulated in AS/NZS 2243.3 2010 Safety In Laboratories - Microbiological safety and containment. Facilities at the University that meet this criteria and which are used to contain RG3 infectious microorganisms are certified by the UQ IBC.

Where microorganisms being contained in the facility meet the definition of genetically modified and are required by the Gene Technology Regulator as requiring a PC3 facility, then the facility must also meet the requirements as set out by the OGTR, and must be certified by the OGTR.

Note: Quarantine containment requirements are regulated separately by the Department of Agriculture - Biosecurity (DAgB). A PC3 Facility is not to be used for level 3 quarantine containment unless it is also certified by DAgB. Refer to PPL 2.40.10 Importing or Working with Quarantine Material for further information on quarantine premises.

6. Requirements for Working in a PC3 Facility

Persons intending to work in a PC3 facility must first have the endorsement of their supervisor and the Chief Investigator of that PC3 facility before applying for access to the IBC Secretary. Before access is granted, the worker must complete the following requirements.

6.1 Application forms

Persons who intend to work in a PC3 facility must contact the IBC Secretary who will provide the following forms for completion:

  • Health Surveillance Form
  • Training Checklist
  • Declaration Form
  • IBC Authorisation for PC3 Facilities

6.2 Health surveillance

All workers must consult with the OHS Nurse Advisor regarding specific health surveillance requirements for the project they are working on.  A risk assessment of the biological hazards and control measures should be completed prior to medical examination and submitted to the OHS Nurse Advisor for assessment so that a targeted medical process can be instituted. The OHS Nurse Advisor provides relevant information at the time of the consultation.

Evidence of health monitoring must be provided to the IBC Secretary with the PC3 application process, and annually thereon in, whilst the person continues to work in the PC3 facility.

6.3 Training

Persons who intend to work in a PC3 facility must first successfully complete the following training:

  • Online Biosafety training (required for all biological facilities) via;
  • PC3 theory training, provided by the IBC Secretary via the UQ Staff Development link;
  • PC3 facility specific practical training, provided by the project supervisor and facility manager.

6.4 PC3 facility manual 

Each PC3 facility has a dedicated facility manual containing standard operating procedures, emergency procedures and information regarding the infectious microorganisms that are contained in that facility. In addition to training, each person must ensure that they are familar with the contents of the manual. It is a requirement by the OGTR that the manual is reviewed on an annual basis. 

6.5 IBC approvals

Work may not commence until the appropriate IBC approvals are in place (i.e. NLRD/DNIR/Potentially Hazardous Biologicals).

Please see PPL 2.40.02 Biosafety RequirementsPPL 2.40.04 Notifiable Low Risk Dealings, PPL 2.40.15 Working with Potentially Hazardous Biologicals for more information.

7. Access Conditions 

Access to PC3 facilities is restricted to authorised persons only.

7.1 Authorised access for researchers

Access will be granted to researchers providing all the conditions in section 6 have been finalised, and approval granted by the facility manager, the researcher's supervisor and the Secretary of the IBC. Persons with access to a PC3 facilty must not provide access to other persons without permission from the IBC Secretary.

7.2 Access for service and contract staff and UQ Security

Contractors, cleaners and security staff are not permitted to enter any active PC3 facility. The exception to this is during the annual maintenance of the facility and equipment that is coordinated by the facility manager and Secretary of the IBC. Prior to the annual maintenance, the facility is first decontaminated by a method approved by the Regulator. During this time, research work is suspended and relevant contractors are provided restricted access in order to complete service and maintenance requirements.

A request for access to any PC3 facility outside of the conditions set in this guideline must be made directly to the IBC Secretary for consideration.

8. Contact for Additional Information

Biosafety Advisor/IBC Secretary

OHS Nurse Advisor


Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael
Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael