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RR919 - Human factors that lead to non-compliance with standard operating procedures

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens categorises biological agents into Hazard Groups 1 (negligible hazard) to 4 (highly pathogenic) according to their potential to cause human infection, the likelihood that infection could spread in the community, and the availability of effective treatment. For laboratories where biological agents are handled, controls proportionate to these hazards are specified and laboratories are designated Containment Levels 1 to 4. These controls are a combination of structural requirements and working procedures. To protect the health of workers, especially with more pathogenic biological agents, it is important that these controls are applied stringently.

This report presents results from the Health and Safety Laboratory's study on the Human Factors that lead to non-compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in Containment Level 3 (CL3) laboratories. The research stemmed from recognition by HSE intervention managers that RIDDOR investigations in CL3 laboratories were often identifying non-compliance with SOPs and organisational learning deficiencies as contributory factors.

Understanding the human factors influences on CL3 laboratory workers that could lead to non-compliance with SOPs will inform HSE HID-SI intervention strategy, thereby helping to drive up safety performance standards in the CL3 laboratory sector.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2012-11-12