The aim of the Containment Ordinance is to protect human beings, animals and the environment from hazards or harm that could be caused by genetically modified, pathogenic or alien organisms.
The ContainO defines the contained system as a
system that uses physical barriers or a combination of physical and chemical or biological barriers to limit or prevent contact between organisms and people or the environment.
This definition covers laboratories, glasshouses, animal facilities and production units, in which work is carried out with genetically modified, pathogenic or alien organisms. Handling such organisms can be dangerous and can result in damage, such as e.g.
- Diseases in humans, animals and plants;
- Undesirable or harmful effects as a result of introducing or disseminating the organisms in the environment;
- Undesirable or harmful effects as a result of natural transmission of genes to other organisms.
To minimize these dangers related to work with such organisms a detailed risk determination and assessment has to be done. In addition the appropriate safety measures have to be implemented.
Risk determination and assessment
The choice of the suitable “containment system” depends on the risk associated with a defined activity involving organisms. Any person who handles genetically modified, pathogenic or alien organisms in contained systems must first assess the possible danger to people and the environment, the degree of danger together with the probability that they would occur.
The risk determination and assessment according to ContainO consists of two steps:
- Group 1: organisms whose occurrence presents no risk or a negligible risk (plants, animals, harmless microorganisms);
- Group 2: organisms whose occurrence presents a low risk (seasonal flu viruses, bacterial food-poisoning pathogens, fire blight bacterium);
- Group 3: organisms whose occurrence presents a moderate risk (Bacillus anthracis, HIV, SARS coronavirus, bird flu virus);
- Group 4: organisms whose occurrence presents a high risk (Ebola virus, foot and mouth disease virus).
Extensive lists are available for classifying the organisms into the four groups (see “Contained systems: Guidelines for handling organisms” under “Links).
- Class 1: activities with no risk or a negligible risk
- Class 2: activities with a low risk
- Class 3: activities with a moderate risk
- Class 4: activities with a high risk.
The class of an activity generally corresponds to the organism’s group. It can however differ there from if a significantly increased or decreased risk is determined in comparison to the group of the organisms used, as a consequence of a risk assessment based on the type of the activity carried out (e.g. storage, production, research or diagnosis) as well as environmental considerations (e.g. an organism that is already widely disseminated in the environment).
General and special safety measures for protecting humans and the environment are to be taken as a function of the risk related to a defined activity. The general and special safety measures are described in Annex 4 of the ContainO for activities of safety levels 1-4 in:
- research and development laboratories;
- growth rooms and glasshouses;
- installations with animals;
- production units.
Biosecurity: Misuse potential
Research in the life sciences produces knowledge and technologies to the benefit of humanity and the environment. However, certain discoveries can become dangerous when misused out of ill intent.
Under "Links", you will find a report from the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences concerning this dual use potential.
Biological experiments outside of conventional laboratories
Under the section “Documents” you shall find a leaflet related to biological experiments carried out outside of conventional laboratories: required safety measures, rules, tricks and useful contacts.
This document has been elaborated by the Amt für Abfall, Wasser, Energie und Luft (AWEL) of the canton of Zürich on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
Last modification 08.12.2020