Biosafety - Policy

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1.0                Purpose and Scope

Biosafety is the term used to describe measures relating to the protection of an environment or population from contamination with or infection by a biological agent.

This policy outlines The University of Queensland’s (UQ) commitment to:

  • protecting the health and safety of people and the environment by managing risks posed  by work involving biological material; and
  • complying with relevant legislative requirements.

1.1                 Scope

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

This policy should be read in conjunction with:

  • the biosafety legislation, codes, standards and guidelines outlined in the appendix;

  • the Institutional Biosafety Committee Terms of Reference; and

  • other relevant UQ policies and procedures (as listed within PPL 2.40).

2.0                Principles and Key Requirements

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 regard to the care of its workers, the greater public and the environment. UQ will:

  1. Meet its statutory obligations set out under state and federal law in relation to working with biological material (as outlined in the appendix).

  2. Ensure all UQ workers dealing with biological material or in areas where work with biological material is undertaken comply with all legislative requirements, mandatory codes and standards applicable to their work (as outlined in the appendix).

  3. Ensure its status as an Accredited Organisation under the Gene Technology Act 2000 is maintained and will continue to meet Office of the Gene Technology Regulator’s (OGTR) requirements and conditions of the Guidelines for Accreditation of Organisations.

  4. Establish an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) to oversee and approve use of genetically modified and/or biological materials. The Chair of the sub-committee is the signatory for these approved proposals.

  5. Ensure the membership of the IBC includes appropriate expertise and the IBC has the necessary resources to assess applications relating to work involving GMOs and/or high risk biological work. 

  6. Ensure all workers dealing with high risk biological material or GMO/GMMOs are required to follow appropriate risk management procedures, are properly trained and competent in working with such material.

  7. Provide containment facilities that 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.

  8. Provide information and advice to workers on the requirements of working with biological materials, including procedures, guidelines and training through the Health, Safety and Wellness (HSW) Division’s Biosafety Advisors.

3.0                Roles, Responsibilities and Accountabilities

3.1    Health Safety and Wellness Division

HSW Division will provide UQ workers with education, information and support to enable them to understand their biosafety compliance obligations at UQ.

3.2                 Institutional Biosafety Committee

The UQ Institutional Biosafety Committee will undertake duties in accordance with its Terms of Reference and provide UQ workers with education, information and support to enable them to understand their biosafety compliance obligations at UQ.

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

  • Consists of the IBC Chair, Deputy Chair (Director HSW), IBC Secretary and appropriate experts from across UQ.

  • Is to consider all biosafety issues arising between IBC meetings, and may make a determination on actions required.

IBC Sub-Committee (IBSC)

  • Consists of the IBSC Chair, Deputy Chair, IBSC Secretary and appropriate experts from across the University.

  • Is to consider all work involving genetic modification or high risk biological work to be conducted in UQ premises, by UQ personnel in non-UQ premises or by external organisations accessing IBC services under legal agreement.

3.3                 Biosafety Advisors

Biosafety Advisors are responsible for providing UQ workers with education, information and support to enable them to understand their biosafety compliance obligations at UQ. In addition, Biosafety Advisors provide advice specific to biosafety matters, biosecurity (Quarantine), representation with Regulator visits and advice to the IBC in relation to biosafety/biosecurity matters as required.

3.4                 UQ workers

UQ workers undertaking activities within the scope of this policy must be aware of their compliance obligations as outlined in this policy. All UQ workers involved with approved biosafety/biosecurity dealings have a duty to read, understand and comply with any dealings/permits applicable to their work.

UQ workers are responsible for the integrity of the records and information involving dealings and license/permit activities and to inform the IBC of any non-compliances as soon as possible. UQ workers are also responsible for ensuring approvals for work in any non-UQ facilities and complying with their requirements when necessary.

UQ workers should seek advice from the Biosafety Advisors when involving the IBC, IBC sub‑committee or regulators to ensure compliance obligations are met.

4.0                Monitoring, Review and Assurance

UQ will ensure the following conditions are met through the HSW Division:

  • Assess compliance with the policy and to demonstrate/confirm its effectiveness.

  • Identify, assess and promptly address any deficiencies.

  • Ensure ongoing relevance of the policy.

  • Biosafety Advisors’ monitoring of biosafety regulatory requirements and changes to industry codes, standards and guidelines, and revisions of this policy as required to ensure its relevancy and currency.

  • Annual audits of certified facilities undertaken by persons authorised by the IBC, to ensure dealings and facilities meet requirements and that all UQ workers working, handling, using or storing materials (both at UQ and non-UQ locations), are compliant with regulations and dealing requirements.

Non-compliance with this policy and its associated procedures may be considered research misconduct under UQ’s Research Misconduct policy or a breach of the relevant federal and state legislative requirements.

5.0                Recording and Reporting

UQ’s IBC is responsible for producing an annual report to the OGTR, reporting non-compliances to the OGTR and Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and meeting any other reporting requests from regulators.

HSW Division reports regularly to senior UQ management, including reporting of any non-compliances involving significant engagement with the involved regulators.

Biosafety Advisors are responsible for ensuring this policy is up to date, communicating changes in standards, licencing and guidelines when required, recording UQ worker approvals through databases, providing advice and access to IBC Committees, and providing representation during Regulator visits when required. 

6.0                Appendix

6.1                 Definitions, Terms and 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 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 and Water Resources - Biosecurity (DAgB) – Section within the Commonwealth Government responsible for the control of biological imports and quarantine. 

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.

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

6.2                 Legislation

  • Gene Technology Act 2000 (C’th) and Gene Technology Regulations 2001 (C’th)

  • Gene Technology Act 2001 (Qld) and Gene Technology Regulations 2002 (Qld)

  • Biosecurity Act 2015 (C’th) and QLD Biosecurity Act 2014 (C’th)

  • Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) and Work Health Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld)

  • National Health Security Act 2007 (C’th) and National Health Security Regulations 2008 (C’th)

  • Dangerous Goods Regulations (International)

  • Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld)

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