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Ex-colleague questions government's case against anthrax suspect

August 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
(Page 4 of 4)

A4. At USAMRIID, every new laboratory employee attends a safety workshop on laboratory operations. Annual refresher training is also required. Safety-related Laboratory Essential Training tasks are specified for every laboratory employee. Supervisors are held accountable for the safety of their subordinates, and a safety standard must be included in the performance objectives of all USAMRIID employees.

The safety committee, composed of the institute's division chiefs and division safety representatives, meets regularly to review safety data and to propose methods to prevent accidents. Safety concepts are emphasized by the publication of institute-wide safety messages and intranet-based institute-wide Laboratory Essential Training tasks for every employee. The entire workforce receives risk management training. Environmental monitoring for the presence of biological agents takes place inside and outside containment laboratories on a weekly basis.

Q5. What is being done to ensure Personnel Reliability as it relates to the biosurety program?

A5. The personnel reliability program is designed to ensure that each person who has access to sensitive materials meets the highest standards of reliability. USAMRIID currently requires all individuals with access to areas in which select biological agents are stored or used to receive extensive laboratory safety operations training, participate in a laboratory mentorship program, and satisfactorily pass a background investigation. In addition to a current Personnel Security Investigation (PSI), enrollment into the Personal Reliability Program (PRP) requires reviews of personnel records, medical evaluation, and an interview with the Certifying Official (CO) highlighting the individual's responsibilities within the PRP, reliability standards, and self reporting requirements.

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Q6. What is the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP)?

A6. The PRP provides a system of continuous evaluation. This includes evaluations by supervisors, fellow workers, Certifying Officials and support staff, in addition to self reporting of any potentially disqualifying information to the CO. Potentially disqualifying information would include, but is not limited to, the employee's being charged with or convicted of a crime, as well as prescription medications being taken and/or outside medical treatment being received.

Q7. Who oversees staff security investigations?

A7. A personnel security section at USAMRIID is dedicated full time to documenting and coordinating staff security investigations with the DoD, CDC, and the FBI. All investigators at USAMRIID have to be cleared by the CDC and the FBI to work with biological select agents and toxins (BSAT).

Q8. Are employees evaluated on a day to day basis?

A8. Supervisors at USAMRIID have the ability to make a day-to-day judgment call as to whether an employee should work with BSAT. To avoid laboratory mishaps, if a supervisor observes that an employee is under a great deal of stress, seems unusually distracted, or is exhibiting other signs of strain, the employee's entry privileges can be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved. This is done for the safety of both the employee and the other laboratory personnel.

Q9. How do you account for biological agents used in the labs?

A9. To secure select agents at USAMRIID, agents are stored in controlled access areas that are monitored via closed circuit television system. To have access to any given agent in storage, personnel must pass numerous access control points before the agent can be obtained.

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