There are numerous factors to consider when conducting a risk assessment for biological materials, and the importance of completing thorough risk assessments should not be underestimated.
Risk assessments are conducted to assess the potential risk to personnel and the environment if an exposure or release were to occur. Although considering the risk group associated with biohazardous material is a crucial piece of the puzzle, the risk assessment should not stop here. The risk group is the starting point from which full consideration of the manipulations to be conducted should be reviewed. The scale of the work, the specific procedures and required safety equipment, and potential for increased infectivity or pathogenicity, are only a few of the basic factors to consider when conducting a risk assessment for biological materials.
For work involving recombinant DNA, the NIH Guidelines should be consulted for guidance on conducting risk assessments. The facility’s Institutional Biosafety Committee needs to review and approve the risk assessments and subsequent assigned containment level. Factors to consider in determining the appropriate containment level include pathogenicity, infectious dose, virulence, availability of suitable disinfectants, route of entry, availability of prophylaxis, etc.
Complete and thorough risk assessments are a crucial step to providing employee and environmental protection.