The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been deemed inconsistent in its approach to lab security and has been criticized for offering insufficient training by a safety committee report recently published on its website.
The paper– titled „Recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the Director Concerning Laboratory Safety at CDC” was realized by a committee of external lab safety experts and even though it states its date as January 13, it only appeared on the CDC website this week. It found a number of issues regarding the institution’s approach to lab safety for its researchers, which appears to affect its credibility as the nation’s top public health institute.
The report criticized the institution’s top-level approach regarding safety, stating that strategic planning done from the top of its hierarchy usually does not include adequate concerns about the level of overall lab safety. This results in a misperception and even exclusion of the notion of safety from company culture, with employees being respectively ignorant to it.
The experts also concluded within the report that the risk assessment phase of research is either done improperly, with poor documentation regarding possible dangers of certain lab research, or even skipped at all in some cases.
Lab training was also criticized within the assessment, with it being considered lacking and inconsistent for most employees throughout the institution. Furthermore, a survey indicated that a large part of the CDC employee base is reluctant to report minor health-endangering incidents due to fear of possible repercussions. The experts recommended the institution to establish distinct strategies to promote a safety-first culture within its employees and the funding of lab-safety programs, together with a consistent curriculum for safety training.
The panel realized its research during a period of almost six months, being created last July after multiple serious incidents happened in CDC labs during the last couple of years.
The last one of these involved possible exposure to Ebola for dozens of employees last December, after a mix-up in samples ended with the deadly virus being transported in inadequate conditions to a low-level laboratory. Last year also saw a number of CDC employees being exposed to anthrax, and a sample of the deadly avian flu virus being sent to another institution by mistake.
Image Source: CBS News