Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lab Safety In The United Kingdom

A recent report suggests that research labs in the United Kingdom have had a variety of lapses in security over the last several years. The laboratories handle some incredibly dangerous bacterial and viral pathogens, and accidents or errors have led to cases of preventable infections and troublesome close calls.

At a Ministry of Defense lab in the UK, for instance, tears were found in the suits of workers that handle Ebola. In another example, live anthrax was transported erroneously from a government site to unsuspecting labs.

As a consequence, labs have been forced to close down and reinforce their security protocols. Although errors are bound to occur in any institution overseen and run by humans, other lapses in safety and security can be addressed easily. Ordering new or repairing old isolation suits should be as simple as purchasing new ones, for example, and to fail to do puts researchers—and the public—at risk.

To an extent, quality training and effective procedural frameworks can diminish human errors. Moreover, equipment failures and damage should be readily identified and repaired.

Although we can expect that more mistakes will be made, it is imperative that labs working with highly pathogenic bacteria and viruses have the infrastructure, personnel, and equipment necessary to protect the public not only through their research, but also with their precautions.

-Luis Garcia



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