Tag: TrainSafe

First TrainSafe class focuses on biosafety measures for lab workers

Southern Research’s first TrainSafe class at its new, state-of-the-art biosafety training center in Birmingham attracted eight laboratory professionals for an intensive four-day session on effective protective measures against deadly pathogens.

“I think a class like this could help leadership and safety officers and scientists all learn the mindset that we’re all here together and we need to make rules we can live by,” said Heather Engelmann of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

“Biosafety is the topic, but it’s really about behavioral sciences and how to lead well.”

Called the Advanced Biological Risk Mitigation Program, the class beginning June 6 taught research and clinical lab workers how to reduce risk to themselves and others in a simulated Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory.

For Keith Mulholland, a molecular biologist at the U.S Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program, the most useful parts were hands-on exploration of the personal protective equipment (PPE) and instructor Sean Kaufman’s stories.

“I’m definitely going to go through and reread all my protocols, look at everything, and really try to see where these techniques would come in handy,” he said. “Also, when I’m working, I’ll try to implement them and see how I can better protect myself and my coworkers.”

As with any comprehensive class, each student gleaned something different. For Engelmann, the most useful aspect “was how to frame conversations about how to help employees change their behavior,” she said.


Kaufman, a national biosafety expert and behavioral psychologist, led the class. In addition to physical risk prevention techniques, he also taught ways to lessen the risk of a cyber attack and strategies to contain human risk. A second part to the program will teach healthcare first responders like doctors, nurses, and EMS workers protective measures to use when treating a patient with one of these potentially dangerous infectious diseases.

“Many emerging infectious diseases require a new set of skills,” Kaufman said. “These bugs often do not have vaccinations, can be transmitted through aerosol, and are things like MERS or SARS that make healthy people sick.

Sean Kaufman leading the first of many classes at Southern Research’s new TrainSafe center.
Sean Kaufman leading the first of many classes at Southern Research’s new TrainSafe center.

“They could very quickly overburden or overrun our capacity to respond appropriately, even in a very well-developed country,” he said.


It’s a risk that Kaufman is all too aware of. In 2014, he trained Emory University doctors and nurses in preparation for caring for Ebola-infected patients. No one there was infected, but two nurses in Dallas were sickened just weeks later. “It’s clearly apparent that a blending of infection control and biosafety lessons that we’ve learned in high-risk containment could benefit the healthcare industry as a whole.”

Before overseeing the high-risk isolation unit, Kaufman had 10 years of experience in biosafety training. The decision to build the simulation center was made after Kaufman had been working with Southern Research as a consultant.

“Southern Research has a rich history and tradition of leading scientific innovation and of developing culture within science,” he said. “This type of training center coincides with that overall mission.”

Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Birmingham-based Southern Research, said the organization can play an important role in better preparing lab workers, emergency responders and hospital staff against emerging threats.

“We, of course, see this as a strategic opportunity to work with the premier trainer in the region, but also as being key to the Southern Research mission as a chance to enhance the biosafety of our nation and the people who work in this important space,” Tipton said.

In addition to the BSL-3 lab, the center also houses an ambulance bay, patient room, and staging areas for students to practice putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unlike active labs or hospitals, these spaces do not have to be decontaminated or shut down for training. Further, attendees can learn to treat patients with unknown infections without the risk of being infected themselves.

“It’s an amazing facility,” said Pacific Northwest National Lab’s Engelmann. “It’s kind of fun to be the first class through.”

Southern Research initiates intensive TrainSafe biosafety training program

Southern Research is launching a new biosafety training center as the centerpiece of an advanced program called TrainSafe to teach health care workers and laboratory staff how to protect themselves against pathogens responsible for serious infectious diseases.

Sean Kaufman, a national biosafety expert who prepared Emory University Hospital caregivers to treat two Ebola-infected patients in 2014, will direct training at the state-of-the-art Southern Research facility, which features a simulated Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory, ambulance bay, and hospital room.

Southern Research’s first TrainSafe class, focusing on biological risk mitigation in a BSL-3 lab, is scheduled to begin June 6. Click here to register.

Southern Research biosafety training
Sean Kaufman, a noted biosafety expert, will direct the classes at Southern Research’s new TrainSafe center.

“The Southern Research center is new and innovative, and I think this is a life-saving program that can help to protect entire communities,” said Kaufman, CEO and founder of Behavioral-Based Improvement Solutions in Atlanta.

“The consequences of having a laboratory staff member not being prepared to work with these very dangerous pathogens could be huge,” he added. “They could bring this home to their families. They can start outbreaks like we saw with SARS in China and Canada that go worldwide.”

A second tier of the TrainSafe program focuses on protective measures that front-line health care workers – doctors, nurses and emergency responders – need to use when encountering a patient suffering from a potentially deadly infectious disease.

“At Southern Research, we’re going to be training folks to make sure they do the right things when they are treating people with serious infectious diseases. We cannot repeat what happened in 2014 with the two nurses getting sick while treating an Ebola-infected patient in Texas,” Kaufman said.


Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Birmingham-based Southern Research, said it’s crucial that research laboratories and hospitals across the United States embrace a culture of safety and preparedness due to the rising threat of dangerous infectious diseases including Ebola, avian influenza and MERS.

“The multi-dimensional TrainSafe center demonstrates Southern Research’s commitment to being a leader in improving training and critical safety practices in environments such as laboratories and health care facilities. We are thrilled to be working with Sean on this important program,” Tipton said.

“Virulent infectious diseases are a growing public health threat, and this training program at our one-of-a-kind center will help lessen the risks posed by the unintentional spreading of these emerging diseases,” he added.

Southern Research biosafety training
Southern Research’s TrainSafe facility includes a realistic simulated BSL-3 lab for the program’s biosafety training.

The TrainSafe facility is designed to permit practical, hands-on training in authentic environments. An advantage of the highly realistic mock BSL-3 lab is that training can take place at any time, unlike a fully operational lab, which would have to be shut down and decontaminated.

The ambulance bay and isolation room section of the TrainSafe center is designed to mimic the arrival of a severely sick patient for hospital care. Patient transport can be extremely hazardous for caregivers, who are often not prepared for contact with unfamiliar and dangerous infections.

Changing rooms in the facility will be used to instruct trainees how to safely put on, and take off, personal protective gear, including masks, gowns, gloves, positive-pressure respirators and full hazmat suits. Knowing how to remove this gear properly is particularly important in preventing accidental infections.

“Training is an opportunity to shake things up, challenge perceptions and make sure people are operating in a safe and effective manner while working in these situations,” Kaufman said.


Southern Research biosafety training
Southern Research’s new TrainSafe center includes a mock ambulance bay for biosafety training for emergency responders.

Kaufman, a behavioral psychologist, has extensive biosafety training experience. He managed a training program at a simulated BSL-3 lab at another institution for 10 years and has conducted biosafety training for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he once worked.

In 2014, Kaufman conducted training exercises for doctors and nurses at Emory before two American volunteers working in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak arrived at the Atlanta hospital for treatment. He remained at the hospital to provide safety expertise during their care.

While no one was infected with Ebola there, the danger was highlighted later that year when two nurses at a Dallas hospital were infected with the virus while treating a patient who had contracted the disease while in Africa.

Kaufman says that episode underscores the need for more intensive training for health care workers.

“We have people working with very dangerous pathogens and very sick patients, and they don’t know what they are doing,” he said. “In working with laboratories over the last 12 years, I have had a chance to see that no matter where you are in your career, you still need training.”

During the decade he managed the training lab, Kaufman said more than 10,000 professionals from the global scientific community participated in the biosafety program. He expects a similar response to Southern Research’s TrainSafe initiative.

“This is an international program,” Kaufman said. “People will come from around the world.”