7 Safety and security|
124. Siting the UKCMRI which will contain biological
research facilities in central London was likely, in our view,
to raise concerns about safety. From the outset of the inquiry
we were determined to examine the risk assessment arrangements,
to satisfy ourselves that the site was going to be suitably safe.
125. Biological hazards, also known as biohazards,
include infectious agents and hazardous biological materials that
pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that
of humans. There are four levels of biohazard, Level 1 being minimum
risk and Level 4 being extreme risk. The Medical Research Council's
(MRC) National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) at Mill Hill
currently carries out experiments up to Level 4. The UKCMRI research
programme will continue the work carried out at the NIMR and at
CR-UK's London Research Institute (LRI). The infectious agents
that require high levels of containment, currently studied at
NIMR, include influenza, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. The NIMR
has been the home of the World Health Organization Influenza Centre
(WIC) since 1948 and receives samples of flu viruses from hospitals
around the world to analyse them and make recommendations on the
composition of influenza vaccines, helping to understand and predict
the susceptibilities of new strains of virus (such as swine flu)
to medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza.
126. The UKCMRI consortium stated in its evidence
that "all work on viruses and bacteria will be carried out
at the appropriate level of containment in state-of-the-art custom-designed
The following table summarises the safety conditions required
for the containment facilities and work planned to be carried
out at the UKCMRI.
Table 5: Containment levels and safety conditions
|2||- Restricted access laboratories with dedicated basins for hand-washing at the exit and safety cabinets may be required for some working
|3||- Laboratories are secure and accessible only through an airlock
- Flooring and benches are impervious to water and resistant to chemicals
- Laboratories are under negative pressure such that air flows in from clean areas and is extracted to the atmosphere through special high efficiency particulate air filters
- Work is carried out in safety cabinets to protect workers and the environment
- All waste is treated before it leaves the area either by heat or a suitable disinfectant
- Written management procedures are required
- Staff must be properly trained
- Procedures are required to deal with any foreseeable emergency
||- Walls as well as floor and benching should be impervious
- Laboratories are under higher negative pressure, and that heat treatment is applied to all liquid and solid waste including shower water.
- Certain work is required to be carried out in closed safety cabinets
- Workers are subject to higher standards of training and more frequent assessments.
|4||The UKCMRI will not work on Human Hazard Group 4 agents.
Source: UKCMRI and MRC supplementary evidence.
127. Professor Savill, from the MRC, explained that
Containment level 3+ was "not a formal classification but
has been used to indicate enhanced control measures in level 3
128. The local MP, Rt Hon Frank Dobson, considered
that bio-insecurity from accidental discharges and the possibility
of terrorism were the major outstanding concerns of local people.
St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action (SPA) described their
- an escape of pathogens into
the atmosphere, or of infectious material via the water table
into adjacent railway tunnels; and
- the laboratory attracting international terrorists
or animal rights activists that cause an escape through their
129. The UKCMRI will house a small number of live
animals for experimentation, mostly mice, but also fish and flies.
Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director of the UKCMRI, told
us that one third of the Centre's animal facilities will be located
at Cancer Research UK's (CR-UK) Clare Hall laboratory at South
Experimentation on live animals brings, regrettably, a risk of
disruption by extremists prepared to break the law. The SPA was
concerned that a "demonstration by animal rights activists
could damage the building and result in a spillage".
130. The UKCMRI at St Pancras would not be unique.
There are a number of facilities in central London that already
accommodate many secure laboratories in hospitals and university
buildings. Professor Savill indicated to us that there are 781
containment level 3 facilities licensed in the UK, and John Cooper,
UKCMRI's Chief Operating Officer, explained that such laboratories
were "common and essential facilities in modern medical research,
and are very safe."
Sir Paul Nurse told us that, on level 3 biohazard containment:
there are already about a hundred facilities
like that in London. There is nothing different about that. I
understand that local residents are concerned, but if that was
not allowed to go ahead, you would close nearly every hospital
131. Rob Inglis, SPA Press Officer, accepted that
"that British scientists have an exemplary safety record.
This is what I have been told by UKCMRI, but they do not have
a perfect safety record."
Robert Henderson, a local resident, stated that:
security issues alone should prevent the research
centre being built. The centre would be a prime terrorist target
because there are three iconic sites in the closest proximitythe
Eurostar terminal, the British Library and the UKCMRI itself and
the nature of the work to be undertaken at the Centre.
132. The outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease Virus
from the Institute for Animal Health's Pirbright Laboratory in
2007 highlighted the dangers involved with handling highly virulent
materials. The SPA told us that a similar leak of dangerous pathogens
from UKCMRI would leave a "possibility of an infection spreading
through the local close, dense population, and through the railway
tunnels at St Pancras International."
The Guardian reported in April 2008 that "over the past 10
years, the HSE has brought five separate prosecutions for severe
failings in safety measures at universities, research institutes
and labs attached to hospitals. Imperial College London was prosecuted
twice in 1998 and fined a total of £45,000". The article
quoted Dr Ellen Nisbet, a malaria researcher at Cambridge University:
Accidents happen. It doesn't matter if you are
driving a car or working in a lab, one day something will happen,
we are extremely well trained in what to do. If we were not you
would probably see a lot more accidents. But if an accident does
happen, it could be catastrophic. You just have to make sure it
does not happen or locate the lab in an area where it is not so
catastrophic if it does happen.
133. In its written evidence UKCMRI Ltd said that
"risk assessment and risk management is integral to the entire
project," and explained that "comprehensive risk registers
are maintained and reviewed monthly by the UKCMRI Executive team
and by the Construction Project Board."
The UKCMRI also pointed out that the planning application
had contained a Security Management Plan highlighting the potential
security risks: the biological research facilities; the containment
facilities; regulatory compliance and licensing requirements;
site deliveries and collections; public safety and security; police
and community liaison; counter-terrorism response; domestic extremism
response; security during construction; the adoption of "Secured
by Design" principles; the mitigation of potential security
risks; crisis management; and business continuity planning.
134. UKCMRI Ltd explained that following "extensive
consultation" the Metropolitan Police had confirmed "that
there are adequate resources in place to manage any protests and
that the safety and security of the institute have been the subject
of considerable scrutiny by the relevant services" and that
the "Crime Prevention Officer is satisfied that the building
has taken into account the principles of designing out crime."
The safety of the building would be governed by "very stringent
regulations" with which the UKCMRI "will fully comply".
The UKCMRI said that both the MRC at NIMR and CR-UK at London
Research Institute (LRI) had "exemplary track records in
ensuring the safety of their research for staff, visitors and
the general public."
135. Professor Savill told us that health and safety
drove the accepted UKCMRI vision of the single governance, single
director and single structure.
Sir Paul Nurse, who has overall responsibility for the UKCMRI's
health and safety, said that "the attention to security and
containment in the design of the building and the thinking about
it has been exemplary".
John Cooper explained that the UKCMRI:
have had a very thorough health and safety risk
assessment of every single room in this building. Any issues that
have come up have been incorporated in the design. Likewise, we
have carried out a security risk assessment of all vulnerable
areas of the building, and those have been incorporated in the
design. We have taken great care to get this right.
136. Another concern raised by a local resident was
the security status of the low paid staff, such as security guards,
cleaners and maintenance workers. Robert Henderson, a local Somers
Town resident, was concerned that the cleaning staff:
pose a particular security problem. To begin
with they are low paid and hence subject to the problems of poor
morale and vulnerability to bribery. [...] they go everywhere
and work at night, generally with little supervision because they
work when security is at its lightest.
Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of the Wellcome
Trust, replied that:
there are no new principles for UKCMRI than for
any of the other laboratories in London, around the country and
in any city. The answer is there will be proper HR procedures
for all staff.
137. Professor Savill told us that there have been
a number of scare stories in the press. He said that local residents
been ill served by some very alarmist reporting
that we will all have seen in the media concerning the potential
biohazard that the research we anticipate UKCMRI doing would confer
on the area.
138. We appreciate the concerns of local residents
and others about the safety and security of the UKCMRI and we
do not doubt that there is a risk of disruption by, for example,
animal rights extremists or the subversion of staff at the UKCMRI.
These are not, however, unique threats faced by the UKCMRI. The
four partners in the consortium, UKCMRI Ltd and the Government
have indicated that they have carried out the necessary risk assessments
and have risk management arrangements in place for the constructing,
fitting out and operation the UKCMRI. On the basis of the evidence
we have taken we conclude that these risks can be managed and
the concerns about safety and security are not grounds for moving
the UKCMRI to another site.
191 Ev 41 Back
As above Back
Ev 41; Ev 51, para 3 Back
Ev 51, para 3 Back
Ev w25, para 8 Back
Ev 52 Back
Q 128 Back
Q 120 Back
Ev 55, para 4c Back
Q 49; Ev 41 Back
Q 126 Back
Q 69 Back
Ev w2, para 2 Back
Ev 54, para 4a Back
"Coming soon?", The Guardian, 22 April 2008,
Ev 40, para 35 Back
Ev 40, para 37 Back
Ev 40, para 38 Back
Ev 40, para 39 Back
As above Back
Q 51 Back
Q 126 Back
Q 129 Back
Ev w2 Back
Q 55 Back
Q 47 Back