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BBSRC and Institute for Animal Health statement regarding health and safety at IAH Pirbright

26 May 2011

The Institute for Animal Health (IAH) has since 2007 invested £30M in facility improvements and new infrastructure developments with a further £100M+ investment underway due to complete in 2014.

The nature of the world leading research carried out at IAH means that it is necessary for work to be conducted on dangerous viral pathogens. Since it is impossible to guarantee that pathogens will not occasionally escape from primary containment, for instance due to accidental breakages or spills in the laboratory, the facilities at IAH are operated within multiple layers of containment. This ensures that breach of primary containment does not result in the escape of pathogens to the environment. It is part of IAH's high quality safety culture that any breaches of primary containment are reported immediately to relevant authorities for advice and action as necessary.

In that context we work closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and they have recently issued two improvement notices to IAH.

  1. The first notice relates to a problem with the incinerator at the Institute's Pirbright Laboratory in February this year. The incident involved the leakage of a small amount of waste liquid within the incinerator room. IAH staff took immediate corrective action, confirmed that the liquid did not contain virus and promptly informed the HSE.

    IAH has reviewed its procedures in light of this experience to prevent any reoccurrence. The HSE has now confirmed that it is satisfied with these actions and the improvement notice that was issued has been closed.

  2. The second notice relates to the cracking of a flask containing Foot and Mouth Disease Virus discovered during defrosting within a Class II MBSC Safety Cabinet within a bio secure laboratory. The cabinet and the surrounding area were thoroughly cleaned. No virus escaped to the outside world and there was no risk that it would do so.

    IAH and HSE are currently discussing the issues around the second incident and therefore no further comment can be made at this time.



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