In 2015, you could count the number of designated public health laboratory (PHL) biosafety officials and officers (BSOs) on one hand. But after safety lapses at federal and clinical laboratories, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saw the value of strengthening dedicated biosafety and biosecurity programs nationwide.
To assist PHLs with this initiative, APHL sponsored a series of four regional workshops* to sharpen the technical knowledge of PHL BSOs, with emphasis on those who have served in the position for less than a year. The workshops trained 86 students from 50 CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity jurisdictions in 2016 and 2017.
Small Classes, Big Gains
Designed to deliver the maximum benefit within a two-day timeframe, APHL's workshop model brings participants together in a small classroom setting to encourage them to ask questions and network. Workshop class size is limited to about 20 participants. Class work combines lectures on a range of topics – biosafety planning, engineering controls, competencies, sentinel clinical laboratory outreach and leadership – with exercises to consolidate learning and exchange perspectives. Participants receive a binder and flash drive with lectures, exercises and supporting documents plus continuing education credits and a certificate of completion at the end of the program.
Inside the workshops, newly appointed BSOs shared their stories: curbing an employee's unsafe habits, implementing a biosafety plan, encountering resistance to biosafety best practices and being a BSO while also juggling other laboratory responsibilities. They also canvassed their more experienced colleagues for ways to promote biosafety best practices and to strengthen relationships with clinical laboratories.
Next, BSO Leadership Workshops
With the first series of regional workshops completed, an APHL working group is developing the curriculum for the next series, which is designed to strengthen the leadership skills of BSOs. Look for information later this year on the APHL Biosafety & Biosecurity Training webpage.
* Workshops were hosted by the Massachusetts State PHL in Jamaica Plain, Hawaii State Laboratories Division in Pearl City, Florida Bureau of Public Health Laboratories in Tampa and the Los Angeles County PHL in Downey.