Biosafety General Information

Biosafety is the containment principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to biological material and toxins, or their accidental release.

What are the responsibilities of the Principal Investigator?

  • Obtain a Biosafety Permit through the UBC Research Information System (RISe) prior to using, handling, storing and disposing of any hazardous material.
  • Provide an authorized users list both on site and within the RISe online system.
  • Ensure that a written procedure is in place for the use, handling, storage and disposal of all biological materials, and for any processes producing hazardous particulates. Some procedures may be found under Standards, Guidelines and Resources
  • Ensure that all users (staff, faculty, students and visitors) have the appropriate documented orientation and training for the specific hazardous material being handled and/or processes being performed.
  • Inform the University through Risk Management Services of any changes to the work being performed and the purchase/transfer/destruction of any biological materials.

What is the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)?

The IBC includes faculty members selected or appointed because of their expertise or stake in biological safety matters. Collectively, these members advise UBC management and the Biosafety Officer (BSO) on biosafety matters in general, and the effectiveness of Biosafety Programs within the University. Other members include Safety Representatives for specific areas.

Complete information including the terms of reference can be found at the Office of Research Services.

What is a Biosafety risk assessment?

Researchers are required to document their assessment of the risks associated to the materials they are handling and storing. Working safely with biologicals, including animals, encompasses not only the people and the animals, but also the facilities, equipment, procedures used, and environment. Understanding how all the elements work together is essential for determining the risk of the work being done. It is important for everyone to understand the risks from the animals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, cleaners, biologicals, radiologicals, equipment, and environmental emergencies.

1. Biological Agent: The classification of biological materials is referred to Risk Group in Biosafety. To help determine which risk ground to classify your organism, see the following sites:

2. Host (You): The health and experience of each individual is also a factor that needs to be considered. To help determine the immune status of an individual, and available vaccines, please contact Risk Management Services directly.

3. Environmental Factors: The final component of a risk assessment is to assess the environment in which the work is occurring. Specifics such as quantity of the agent, aerosol production and the usage of sharps and needles must be considered. Additionally, factors such as the other research in the surrounding area, the number of people working, equipment, structural integrity of the room (counters, floors, walls) and the safety controls available.

When added all together, the overall risk assessment will allow for the classification of the laboratory space: Containment Level 1 to 4. More information can be found in the Biosafety Training Manual or the Canadian Biosafety Standards.

What are Biosafety risk controls?

In addition to the Hierarchy of Controls there are specific controls commonly required for Biological Research. Information on engineering controls including the functions of Biosafety Cabinets are found in Section 3 of the Biosafety Training Manual (PDF).

Biosafety Cabinet Certification is required:

  • Annually regardless of what the cabinet is used for.
  • When installed.
  • After being moved.
  • After major services or repairs.

To schedule an appointment for Certification, please contact Risk Management Services.

What about plants, insects, pests, environmental samples and GMOs?

Environmental Biological Hazards are now included in the Biosafety Committee purview to help UBC become compliant under the various Environmental Regulations, both federally and provincially. This means if you are using an Environmental Biological Hazard you are required to have a Biosafety Permit. Environmental Biological Hazards include, but are not limited, to:

  • Invasive species – plants, insects, pests (plant and aquatic). Contact Risk Management Services to determine if your organism is considered to be invasive.
  • Non-indigenous – plants, insects, soil, water, animal feces.
  • Genetically engineered.

Genetically engineered organisms are defined as:

  • The plant, animal, or microorganism exhibits characteristics that were not previously observed in that plant, animal or microorganism.
  • The plant, animal, or microorganism no longer exhibits characteristics that were previously observed in that plant, animal, or microorganism, OR
  • One or more characteristics of the plant, animal, or microorganism not longer fall withing the anticipated range for that plant, animal, or microorganism.

Tracking genetically engineering organisms has always been required, but will now be specifically tracked using RISe. Due to their minimal risk we are excluding detailed lists for non pathogenic E.coli, Arabidopsis, Chlamydomonas, Populus, fruit flies and transgenic mice.

If there are other organisms that should be excluded, please contact RMS directly.

BioSafety Course

The University Biosafety Committee requires that the successful completion of the Laboratory Biological Safety Course be a mandatory requirement for all new staff and new projects involved with Biohazard level II or greater, including those working with blood and bodily fluids. This applies to all Principle Investigators/Course Directors, faculty, staff and students conducting work with these materials.

Biosafety Manual (Okanagan)

Human error and poor laboratory practice can compromise the best of laboratory safeguards designed specifically to protect the laboratory worker. The primary factor in the prevention of laboratory accidents and laboratory associated infections is a fully trained faculty and staff. To accomplish this it is essential that faculty and staff receive the appropriate training in laboratory safety measures.

With the ever changing hazards associated with doing research it is important to ensure that all personnel are appropriately trained in protocols that are specific to UBC. It is the intent of the members of the University Biosafety Committee to move in a direction that will not only ensure compliance with the university regulations but will also help to prevent exposure of biohazards to its employees.

Laboratory Safety Guidebook

In order to keep the campus community safe and in compliance with applicable regulations and policies, each lab on campus should have a laboratory safety binder for the lab users that is unique to that lab. As part of the 2011 Lab Review process, RMS will be providing each lab with a customizable Laboratory Safety Guidebook.   Once complete the Guidebook will contain University level information related to health, safety and the environment as well as customized laboratory specific information for methods, policies and procedures. Because every laboratory is unique, the specific information in this book will be different from the one next door.   These templates are designed to allow lab users to create laboratory rules and procedures that are consistent with applicable legislation and University Policy, but are customized to each lab. The template format was chosen to limit the amount of work needed by each PI to complete a Guidebook.   In the beginning only a few templates will be made available.  You will be notified by e-mail when new templates become available

Please contact Risk Management Services at or (250)807-8656 if you have any questions or concerns regarding Biosafety.