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The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) has been built on a box-within-a-box principle, all physical containment systems are duplicated or triplicated to ensure there is always another barrier in place should one barrier fail.
AAHL’s main building has five levels, four of them inside the microbiologically secure barrier. A 30cm thick concrete wall forms an airtight ‘box’ around the secure area.
AAHL is built on a box-within-a-box principle providing multiple levels of containment
© AAHL, Sally Corinaldi
All of the secure area is area is held at a lower air pressure than the outside world, to keep any airborne infectious agents inside the laboratory.
Within the secure box are a series of smaller secure boxes, each with a drop in air pressure.
Air pressure is controlled so that air will always flow in toward the highest containment zone thus preventing any leakage out.
The five storey building is designed to prevent the escape of microbiological organisms. AAHL’s design is held in high esteem world-wide and is still acknowledged as world class 30 years after it was constructed.
A guiding principle in the design and operation of AAHL’s high-containment facility is that biosecurity containment should never be by a single barrier. If one containment system or barrier fails, then at least one other barrier is in place to protect Australia’s animal and human populations.
Therefore at AAHL, all physical containment systems are duplicated, and all essential systems, such as electricity generators, steam and compressed air plants, are triplicated. Containment would therefore not be at risk from a computer or power failure.
Most things never leave the secure area, but those that do must first be treated:
AAHL has extensive security and monitoring systems to maintain the microbiological integrity of the Facility.
An engineer attends to one of >1000 HEPA air filters.
Every mechanical operation at AAHL is monitored via the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, supplemented with a security access system and CCTV to record staff movements.
The SCADA system is one of the largest and most complex systems of its type in Australia and includes:
The Central Monitoring Service (CMS) uses these systems to monitor equipment and activity across the site, both inside the building and in the grounds, ensuring the safety of staff and visitors, microbiological security, and optimised plant performance.
The system advises the CMS operator of any changes to plant.
Our systems ensure that any potential risks are identified early and there is an immediate response.
The CMS has operated continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since AAHL opened in 1985.
The AAHL facility allows work up to the highest designated biosecurity level: Physical Containment level four (PC4), often also referred to as bio-security levl 4 or BSL4. Agents that need to be held at PC4 are those that are highly transmissible and for which there is no vaccine or effective treatment.
AAHL is the only laboratory in Australia that can safely handle exotic zoonotic diseases agents, ie. virus or bacteria that have arrived in Australia from another country, and which pose a major threat to the nation’s animal industries and human health.
Exotic disease agents are used in the laboratory for:
Procedures and containment facilities at AAHL conform with or exceed the requirements defined in the Australian/New Zealand Standard, Safety in Laboratories , Part 3; Microbiological safety and containment facilities.
Our staff wear highly specialised personal protective clothing when working with:
The biosafety training to work at these levels of physical containment is extensive and ongoing.
The personal containment procedures are backed up by compulsory showering out of infected animal rooms and out of the secure area.
Once outside the secure area, staff must not have contact with livestock animals for seven days.
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Last updated: Last updated: 25 February 2015
Printed from: Engineering underpinning the science (http://csiroaucd1-cdc.it.csiro.au/en/Research/Facilities/AAHL/AHHL-Infrastructure/Engineering-underpinning-the-science)