Safety & Security
The RBL has incorporated special engineering and design features to prevent microorganisms from being released into the environment and unauthorized access to the laboratory. Numerous physical and procedural safety and decontamination features provide multiple layers of protection for lab workers and the surrounding environment.
Design and Construction:
- The RBL has been designed and constructed according to strict standards for the construction
of BSL3 facilities required by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for
- The National Institutes of Health requires stringent review of the design, construction,
commissioning and certification of the RBL. See FAQ #16.
- Special engineering and design features include:
- Location - the BSL3 laboratories are internal labs inside the building shell. One must pass through multiple levels of security and engineering controls to enter the BSL3 containment areas.
- Air handling - The RBL has its own air handing system. The airflow for the BSL3 labs
is negative, meaning all of the air flows from outside the BSL-3 labs and into the
labs through a series of closed spaces to the most interior space. The air is then
HEPA filtered before being released from the building. The air is single pass and
is not ever re-circulated to the rest of the BSL3 lab or any other part of the building.
This ensures that any potentially contaminated air cannot be released from the facility
without being filtered.
- Decontamination - all trash and biological waste generated in the BSL-3 laboratories
must be decontaminated before it leaves the facility. Uncontaminated liquid waste,
such as mop bucket water, is treated chemically before it goes down the drain. Solid
waste and any material that has come in contact with infectious agents must be sterilized
by autoclaving (high heat at high pressure). Sterilized waste is then packaged for
removal by a medical waste contractor.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - All personnel entering the BSL3 laboratories
must put on personal protective equipment. This includes at minimum tyvek jump suits,
masks, gloves and head bonnets. Personnel working in some laboratories will be required
to wear scrubs under their PPE and shower out. All laboratories have the shower out
- Security and Access control is a very important aspect of the RBL and is described
- Containment equipment - Special equipment is used by researchers inside the facility
when manipulating infectious agents. This equipment ensures that infectious material
remains in sealed containers and is not released into the air inside the facility.
This protects the researchers working inside the BSL3. In the event of an accident
or equipment malfunction, the personal protective equipment worn by the researcher
would serve to protect the person long enough so they could safely exit the facility.
The air handling system would then safely filter the air to remove any contaminant
and the laboratory would then be gas decontaminated to remove any surface contamination.
- Earthquake - the RBL has been designed to resist earthquake loads in accordance with
the International Building Code.
- Campus and community law enforcement officers and other first responders will receive
special training on security and safety issues involving the laboratory; and security
staff will be increased. Emergency Response Procedures must be established and drilled
on an annual basis. A team of first responders including UTHSC personnel, the Memphis
Fire Department, the Memphis Police Department, the Memphis Emergency Management Agency
(EMA) and the Memphis Shelby County Health Department work together to ensure that
emergency response and safety plans are appropriate and can be executed efficiently.
- The RBL and the research performed in the RBL must comply with several Federal Regulations
including: DHHS and USDA regulations (DHHS 42 CFR 73, APHIS 7 CFR 331, 9 CFR 121, and CDC/NIH BMBL5). The facility, the procedures and practices used in the facility and record keeping
will be inspected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure compliance with
federal regulations before the facility becomes operational and every 3 years there
- All research procedures performed in the facility must be approved by the UTHSC Institutional Biosafety Committee and the BSL-3 committee before work begins.
All personnel must receive special training in BSL-3 practices and enroll in the medical surveillance program before working in the facility.
Gerald I. Byrne, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Biochemistry (MIB)
Director, Regional Biocontainment Laboratory
University of Tennessee Health Science Center