Health Department Expanding Biosafety Inspection Agenda

October 20, 2022

The Bedford Health Department is proposing a 100 percent increase in its biosafety budget line in anticipation of continuing growth of businesses that require inspections.

Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services, told the Board of Health on Monday that she is approximately doubling her request from the current $8,600 to $17,350.

Before discussing the budget, the board heard from Rebecca Caruso, its biosafety consultant, with details about her fiscal 2022 annual inspection of 12 businesses subject to local biosafety regulations.

“Essentially, we doubled our program over the past two years,” Porter said. “Rebecca did 12 inspections in fiscal year 2022; the budget was for nine. This year we have 14 and we expect to see 19 or 20 in fiscal year 2024. 

“We don’t know who’s coming into town,” Porter noted. “For years we knew very specifically. Now they are popping up in different locations.” She noted that there are plans to build facilities suitable for biomedical work on the site of the former Bedford Glen Hotel on Middlesex Turnpike.

In answer to a question from board member Ann Kiessling, Porter said the departmental permit for biomedical materials is $500. Caruso said she inspects all of the facilities that hold permits.

The consultant told the board, “For the most part every one of the 12 was pretty much overall compliant on major items. There are no major concerns.” Caruso said safety programs, including in response to Covid-19, laboratory procedures, and availability and use of personal protective equipment “all were well in compliance.”

“Certain companies did have some room for improvement,” Caruso added, in areas such as training to9 clean up spills on a floor, and signage on storage cabinets.

Caruso has been working as the Health Department’s biosafety inspection consultant for about four years. She said she has an academic background in microbiology and public health.

About half of this year’s inspections were conducted in person, and half virtually, Caruso reported. Each inspection was preceded by discussions with company officials, reviewing Health Department files and the inspection checklist. The same checklist was employed for all.

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