A&M to Pay $1 Million for Safety Failures at Biodefense Labs

Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) has agreed to pay a record $1 million fine for safety failures at its biodefense laboratories that were shut down last year after a Centers for Disease Control investigation stripped the university of its certification. University President Elsa Murano said on Feb. 20 that the school had reached an agreement with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and would promptly pay the $1 million with research-compliance dollars in the hope that the 7-month-old suspension on lab activities would be lifted. OIG said it is the largest fine the agency has ever assessed for violations of rules governing the handling of select agents used in biodefense research.

"We are 100 percent committed to transparency in how we conduct research at Texas A&M, and we are committed to ensuring the maximum degree of safety and security of all personnel involved in such endeavors, just as we are totally committed to the overall safety of everyone--students, faculty, staff and any others--on our campus," said Murano, who assumed the Texas A&M presidency last month.

Murano, formerly the undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, added, "Our vaccine and therapeutic research, although relatively small in terms of actual dollars, representing less than 1 percent of our $570 million in annual research expenditures, is, nonetheless, a significant and critical part of our efforts to protect the citizens of our community, state and nation from those who may choose to do us harm." A&M said that in response to the CDC's findings during a visit to the labs last August, the university has enhanced staffing and oversight of its lab facilities, improved the training of research personnel, implemented more stringent procedures for gaining lab access, and established procedures for unscheduled inspections.

According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report, CDC began taking an interest in A&M after a biodefense watchdog group last year uncovered documents showing that three people at the university had been exposed to the Q fever organism, a highly infectious bacterium that is considered a potential terrorist threat, as well as an earlier incident in which a researcher became ill from Brucella, a group of bacteria that CDC also consider a bioterrorism agent. A&M's EH&S manager resigned on the same day that CDC issued its report, the Star-Telegram notes.

CDC officials have indicated they will make a follow-up visit to the A&M campus in early March, the university said.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Safety Management Software - Free Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Software’s comprehensive suite of modules help organizations to record and manage incidents, inspections, hazards, behavior based safety observations, and much more. Improve safety with an easy to use tool for tracking, notifying and reporting on key safety data.

  • Create Flexible Safety Dashboards

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations allows you to easily create and view safety KPIs to help you make informed business decisions. Our best of breed default indicators can also save you valuable time and effort in monitoring safety metrics.

  • Schedule and Record Observations

    IndustrySafe's Observations module allows managers, supervisors, and employees to conduct observations on employees involved in safety critical behavior. IndustrySafe’s pre-built BBS checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important?

    A near miss is an accident that's waiting to happen. Learn how to investigate these close calls and prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

  • Get the Ultimate Guide to Safety Training

    When it comes to safety training, no matter the industry, there are always questions regarding requirements and certifications. We’ve put together a guide on key safety training topics, requirements for certifications, and answers to common FAQs.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - June 2019

    June 2019


      New Orleans Networking
      Heed These Summer Safety Tips
      Education, Skill Development, and Behavior Change
      What Good Looks Like
    View This Issue

Bulwark Quiz