COVID-19 Advice for the JCU Community - Last updated: 22 October 2021, 8am (AEST)

Biosafety and Quarantine

James Cook University is committed to providing a safe workplace for staff, students and visitors to the University.  The University recognises the need to protect students, staff and the environment from potential hazards associated with biological organisms or materials that may contain biological hazards.

The JCU IBC is a sub-committee to the JCU Work Health and Safety Advisory Committee (WHSAC). The current Terms of Reference for the committee are maintained by the WHS Unit.

The IBC oversees compliance of JCU with the Office of Gene Technology Regulation and makes recommendations relating to biosafety issues at JCU.

Hazards specifically monitored by the IBC include:

  • Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Materials derived from human sources
  • Materials derived from animal sources in particular those with zoonotic infection, and
  • Micro-organisms.


Composition of Committee Member and Position Title
Chairperson (Member appointed by WHSAC) Mr Peter Westwood, Director Divisional Operations, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine

Members of the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine:

Member 1 of 2 – College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences Dr Catherine Rush (or Nominee) Deputy Chair
Member 2 of 2 – College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences A/Professor Patrick Schaeffer / Dr Craig McFarlane (or Nominee)

Member 1 of 2 - College of Medicine and Dentistry (Townsville)

Dr Lynn Woodward (or Nominee), Research Resource Manager
Member 2 of 2 - College of Medicine and Dentistry (Cairns) Miss Emma Carson (or Nominee), Laboratory and Technical Support (Dentistry)
Members of the Division of Tropical Environment and Societies:
I.   Member of the Molecular Ecology & Evolution Laboratory, College of Science and Engineering Dr Carolyn Smith-Keune (or Nominee)
II.  Manager, Laboratories and Technical Support Mrs Susan Kelly (or Nominee)
III. Academic, College of Science and Engineering Dr Lynn Van Herwerden (or Nominee)
Member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Dr Hugo Harrison (or Nominee), Senior Research Worker
Member of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine:
I.   Townsville Campus Mr Chris Wright (or Nominee)
II.   Cairns Campus Mr Phill Walsh (or Nominee)
Member of the Division of Services and Resources, Estate Directorate Mr Simon Leavers (or Nominee), Manager, Asset Strategy and Maintenance
Objective Member – External Entity Dr Kerry Hancock, Senior Research Operations Officer, Biosafety Officer, University of Southern Queensland

Mr Shane Casson
Biological Safety Specialist, CSIRO
Advisor by Invitation - Environmental Advisor (Plants and Waste): Manager, Environment - Division of Services and Resources Mr Jared Sunderland (or Nominee)
Advisor by Invitation - Member from the College of Healthcare Sciences 
Permanent Advisor - HSE Biological, Radiation and Chemical Safety Advisor Mr Drew Kleier (or Nominee), WHS Biological, Radiation and Chemicals Safety Advisor Health, Work Health and Safety Unit
Secretariat Ms Michelle Nethery (or Nominee), WHS Administrative Officer, Work Health and Safety Unit

A biosafety application is required for projects with biological hazards. Hazards include, but are not limited to:

  • GMO
    • Genetically modified microorganisms
    • Genetically modified animals and plants.
  • Materials derived from human source
    • Collecting blood
    • Interacting with potentially infected individuals, for example, interviewing or taking biological samples
    • Activities conducted outside of facilities being operated under infection and control requirements from Queensland Health
  • Materials derived from animal sources, in particular those with potential for causing zoonotic infection
    • Dealing with wild animals, such as bats (e.g. Lyssavirus)
    • Dealing with domestic animals, such as horses (e.g. Hendra Virus)
    • Dealing with animals outside of Australia (e.g. rabies)
  • Purposely infecting animals
  • Working with poisonous or venomous organisms
  • Synthetic toxins/biologicals
  • Working with microorganisms.

Is your project relevant?

If there is uncertainty whether a project requires a biosafety application, the applicant should seek guidance by sending an email to

The email should include the following information:

  • Applicant's name
  • Contact details
  • Name of supervisor
  • Division
  • College/Institute
  • Description of the project

During the process the Divisional Biosafety Representative may be able to offer assistance.

An initial ruling will be made by an IBC member to determine one of the following for the project:

  • Confirm that the biosafety application process is relevant, and the full biosafety application is to be completed; or
  • That the biosafety application process is not relevant, and the decision will be recorded on a central register maintained on the Biosafety drive; or
  • Further information is required to make the assessment.

Biosafety Application

If the project is to proceed or it was obvious that an application is required, the applicant must complete a full application for submission (JCU Biosafety Application Approval). Completed applications are to be sent to

The application should include sufficient details to enable the Biosafety representative to review your project methodologies, organisms to be used, and proposed activities incorporating any relevant risk assessments.

Please refer to the Biosafety Procedure for the sections outlined below.

Overview of obtaining approval to work with biological hazards at JCU

Any person working with biological material in a PC facility and in the field must complete and pass the biosafety training that is available on LearnJCU.

A laboratory induction is required to be completed by anyone working within a physical containment facility or laboratory. Adequate training and instruction may also be required prior to the operation of any specific piece of equipment.

JCU maintains both Physical Containment Level 2 and Physical Containment Level 3 containment facilities that are certified by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).

The facilities and procedures are maintained in accordance with:

  • AS/NZS 2243.3:2010 Safety in laboratories Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment, which identifies the requirements for physical containment facilities 1-4;
  • Facilities certified to OGTR requirement will have additional requirements that can be identified in the guidelines for each type of facility.  The related PC certification level; the guidelines are available from the OGTR website.
PC Rating Hazard LevelUse/Controls Example Microorganism Risk Groups



Animal Containment Facility

Plant Containment Facility

Invertebrate Facility


Student and undergraduate teaching laboratories.

General laboratory conditions, such as sealed floors and benches.

Reliant on laboratory practices to control risk.

Food grade bacteria

Risk Group 1



Animal Containment Facility

Plant Containment Facility

Invertebrate Facility


Research, diagnostic facilities.

Where infectious aerosols could be present a biological safety cabinet will be used

Salmonella Paratyphi A and B

Legionella sppRisk Group 2

Risk Group 2




Research, diagnostic facilities.

Additional controls such as airlocks, access controls, vaccination, additional training.

Australian Bat Lyssavirus
Dengue 1, 2, 3 and 4
Hepatitis C

Risk Group 3



Very High

Highest level of control.

Additional controls such as airlocks, access controls, vaccination, additional training, change rooms, shower facilities, and class III biological safety cabinets or fully encapsulated positive pressure suit.


Risk Group 4

Quarantine requirements are monitored by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in accordance with the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014.

The Department issues permits for importation and monitors compliance through auditing of Quarantine Approved Arrangements (QAA).

Import permits impose the requirements relating to the specific application.  The requirements of a permit must be met in full.

Import permit requirements can range from:

  • Initial inspection at the point of entry (in some cases there are no further requirements).
  • Import with post entry requirements including the need to use material within a Quarantine Approved Arrangements (QAA), track usage and disposal.

Biosecurity Import Conditions

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has a Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system for importing.

JCU has set up a multi user BICON account administered by the HSE Unit.

Anyone planning on submitting import permit applications will need to register as a ‘user’ on the system.  There are two ways to become a ‘user’:

  1. Receiving an invite from the system administrator. Initially you would request an account from
  2. When applying in the BICON system selecting the ‘account type’ as joining an existing ‘multi user account’, and selecting James Cook University.

Once you have a user account applications can be submitted to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Permit applications can either be paid by credit card or a tax invoice can be generated from the system.  Be aware that when an invoice is generated the assessment process will not start until after the invoice is paid.

Any permits in the previous ICON system will not convert over to BICON, and will eventually expire under the old system.

Quarantine Approved Arrangements (QAA)

Quarantine Approved Arrangements are the facilities registered with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The facility must meet the criteria set out in the guidelines for facility types provided by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This includes both the physical and procedural requirements. Quarantine requirements will be in addition to those for OGTR.

Any person wishing to work with quarantine material must undergo the Quarantine Approved Arrangements for Accredited Persons (QAA-AP) training for the type of facility.

Anyone working with quarantine material must be trained in the specific permit requirements and the requirements for the facility.

Fit and Proper Person

To allow any person access to quarantine material and the Quarantine Approved Arrangements, a "Fit and Proper Person" test must be successfully passed. The test is to be applied to:

  • Any person working with the material
  • Any person who can access quarantine material
  • Any person managing operational aspects of a Quarantine Approved Arrangement
  • Any person with managing responsibility for the Quarantine Approved Arrangement, such as approving payment of invoice form the regulator
  • A record of the test being conducted is to be maintained as evidence