High-se­cu­rity labs safety breaches


High-se­cu­rity lab­o­ra­to­ries that han­dle the most dan­ger­ous viruses and bac­te­ria have re­ported more than 100 ac­ci­dents or near-misses to safety reg­u­la­tors in the past five years, UK of­fi­cial re­ports re­veal, ac­cord­ing to Guardian. One blun­der led to live an­thrax be­ing sent from a gov­ern­ment fa­cil­ity to un­sus­pect­ing labs across the UK, a mis­take that ex­posed other sci­en­tists to the dis­ease. Another caused the fail­ure of an air han­dling sys­tem that helped con­tain foot and mouth dis­ease at a large an­i­mal lab.

Wear and tear also caused prob­lems and po­ten­tially put re­searchers in dan­ger. At a top se­cu­rity Min­istry of De­fence lab, tears were found in iso­la­tion suits at a fa­cil­ity han­dling an­i­mals in­fected with the Ebola virus.

Re­ports ob­tained by the Guardian from the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive (HSE) re­veal that more than 70 in­ci­dents at gov­ern­ment, univer­sity and hos­pi­tal labs were se­ri­ous enough to in­ves­ti­gate. Many led to en­force­ment let­ters, or crown pro­hi­bi­tion no­tices, or­der­ing labs to shut un­til im­prove­ments were made. Some were so se­ri­ous they ended in le­gal ac­tion.

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