Safety Services


Safe and Secure Storage of Biological Agents

This page provides guidance on best practice for the safe and secure storage of all biological agents and additional considerations for the storage of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

> Considerations for storage of all biological agents
> General principles
> Additional measures
> Guidance on the storage of GMOs

Storage requirements for biological agents will depend on:

  • the type of biological agent
  • the volume being stored
  • the temperature and other environmental factors required to keep it stable
  • the container it is kept in

General principles

All biological agents should be stored in a leakproof primary container and labelled so the contents and owner can be identified.

All laboratories storing biological should have restricted access. This is by card access to the building in most cases. Depending on the building use and occupants there may be additional card or keypad access to laboratory corridors and in some cases additional restrictions to the laboratory through card, keypad or key access.

Biological agents should be double contained to minimise the risk of spills and cross-contamination. Best practice is to separately store cell lines away from wild type microorganisms these should be separated from GMOs to avoid cross-contamination. 

Higher hazard biological agents will require more secure storage to protect people or the environment from exposure or release.

Additional measures

For all high hazard biological agents e.g. Hazard Group (HG) 3, Class 3 Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Specified Animal Pathogen Order (SAPO) agents and Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) Schedule 5, there are additional security measures required. There must be:

  • an inventory of agents
  • register of authorised users who have received specific training on how to work with and store these biological agents
  • limited access e.g. card access to the lab and or locked fridges / freezers

 For Schedule 5 the agent needs to be registered with the Home Office before acquisition. These agents need to be securely locked away until required for use by authorised users with specific training on handling these agents. There also must be a log of the amounts kept, used and records of disposal amounts. Lock combinations should be regularly changed to ensure that access is restricted to those people who should have access. A log of keys and their whereabouts should be kept so that the department knows the location of all its keys. Thefts of Schedule 5 must be reported as soon as possible to Safety Services so that NaCTCSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) can be informed. 

The specific agent being stored will determine the level of security required for storage

Guidance on the storage of GMOs

Storing GMM is considered by the HSE as an activity involving GMM and is covered by the same duties.

The following practices are agreed as the best way to prevent accidental misuse or contamination which could result in a more hazardous GMO being formed:

  • replicon cDNA and capsid–gene constructs should be stored separately
  • materials containing replicons or associated constructs should be clearly labelled
  • use of environmental risk dedicated freezer or storage box for derived form pathogens that represent a significant health hazard
  • environmental risk access should be restricted either to the storage container or through access to the storage area for derived form pathogens that represent a significant health hazard
  • replicons and related viruses should not be stored together in cryostorage (risk from the mobility of liquid nitrogen)
  • waste should be segregated
  • an inventory containing location and nature should be kept

The SACGM Compendium of guidance provides guidance on the safe and secure storage of GMM and should be consulted before the storage is agreed.

Last updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Further information

> Biological Agents
> Transport