Institute fined for biosecurity breeches

3:02pm Thursday 29th May 2014

By Anne Perks

THE Pirbright Institute in Surrey has been fined £72,350 (£22,350 in fines and £50,000 in costs) by City of London magistrates after admitting it failed to ensure biosecurity when carrying out experiments on cattle infected with the foot-and-mouth virus.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted, said there was no external release of the disease.

The breaches occurred when a ventilation system was operated in a different configuration from normal.

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Simon Warne from the HSE said the failings were “significant”.

“In common with other sites which pose major or significant hazards, either to people or the environment, there needs to be protection in depth,”

he said. “This involves having a number of protective measures, with each one providing some degree of assurance in the event of other failures.”

The institute carries out research into farm animal disease and viruses which spread from animals to humans.

The breaches of the Specified Animals Pathogens Order took place in November 2012 and January 2013.

A spokesman for the institute said it had accepted the charges and “no issue of human health was involved”.

“The incidents that led to the breaches showed that certain institute processes and actions had fallen short of the standards the public, partners and the institute itself expects,” she said.

The institute admitted eight counts of breaching the Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1008 in the first case of its kind.

Despite the failings, the breaches did not result in the release of the disease to the outside world, as other controls and safeguards were sufficient to ensure the risk of a serious event was avoided.

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