Switzerland can further increase safety in laboratories. Pour Demain has derived recommendations from more than 15 interviews with experts.
Biological research on pandemic pathogens plays a central role in pandemic preparedness and response. At the same time, this type of research carries risks, such as accidents and misuse, with potentially devastating consequences.
Recommendations to increase laboratory safety
The legal basis provided by the Epidemics and Environmental Protection Act and the ordinances derived from it offers a proven set of rules in the field of biosafety. Nevertheless, safety in laboratories can be further improved. Recent reports show that high-security laboratories are sometimes not inspected for years. Biological technologies are developing rapidly. Pour Demain recommends that the following measures be examined:
Strengthen education and training for biosafety officers and laboratory staff.
Institute mandatory biosafety courses and training for laboratory staff.
Introduce CAS course Biosafety and Biosecurity.
Strengthen control of laboratories.
Consider legal obligation of cantons to conduct regular, unannounced inspections in BSL-3 and -4 laboratories every three years.
Strengthen further cooperation between the cantons.
Consider the introduction of certification for BSL-3 and -4 laboratories.
Anchor biobanks in law.
Introduce personal safety checks for staff in BSL-3 and -4 laboratories.
Ensure transparent working environment with a sanction-free reporting system.
Give greater weight to biosecurity in education and training.
These precautions limit the risk of human error due to mistakes and inadequate information (biosafety) as well as the risk of deliberate misuse (biosecurity).
Importance of biological hazards compared to nuclear and chemical hazards
With these adjustments, biosafety in Switzerland would follow best practice in other areas. In nuclear facilities, for example, compulsory safety courses and personal safety checks have long been established.
Switzerland should not rest on its existing legal basis regarding biosafety and biosecurity, but should lead by example. Potential hazards to laboratory safety should be adequately considered before further action is required. In this way, Switzerland would recognise that biological risks are a safety field alongside radiation protection and chemical safety that is equally associated with high risks for humans, animals and the environment
From Pour Demain's point of view, further measures are proportionate in view of the risks. In this way, Switzerland benefits from important biological research in high-risk laboratories while ensuring the best possible protection.
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Contact Laurent Bächler, Program Manager Biosecurity, Pour Demain, email@example.com