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Environmental Health & Safety

Emergency Procedures for Laboratory Biohazards

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PDF Version of Emergency Procedures for Biological Spills in BSL1, BSL2 and BSL2+ Labs


    The NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules requires each Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) to adopt emergency plans covering accidental spills and personnel contamination resulting from recombinant or synthetic mucleic acid molecule research.

    OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens standard requires immediate and appropriate cleanup, by trained staff, of spills in HIV and HBV research labs. CDC/NIH's Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories requires the same for infectious materials in BSL2 labs.

    This procedure establishes the minimum requirements for responding to biological spills (recombinant and non-recombinant) in labs working at Biosafety Level 1 (BSL1), BSL2 and/or BSL2+.


    • University of Rochester research and clinical lab personnel working at BSL1, BSL2 and/or BSL2+
    • Environmental Health and Safety Spill Team
    • University Biosafety Officer
    • BSC: Class II biological safety cabinet
      Biosafety Level 1 (BSL1) is assigned to work involving well-characterized agents not known to consistently cause disease in immunocompetent adult humand and present minimal potential hazard to laboratory personnel and the environment. Examples: Adeno-associated virus (and vectors, if delivering non-toxic or non-oncogenic inserts), plasmid DNA administered in vivo, nonpathogenic E. coli strains (e.g. K-12 derived strains like DH5alpha, and some non K-12 derived E. coli strains like BL21.
      Biosafety Level 2 (BSL2) is assigned to work involving human pathogens that pose moderate hazards to personnel and the environment. This does include agents that can cause fatal disease, but many times, vaccines or treatments are available.
      Biosafety Level 2+: Biosafety Level 2 plus additional precautions required by the IBC
      CDC: Center for Disease Prevention and Control
      EH&S: Environmental Health and Safety
      Emergency Flip Chart: Also known as theh Emergency 13 flip chart is a quick reference guide to handling emergencies at the UR, including a section on Personal Injury/Exposure; copies are available from EH&S
      Engineering Control: A term used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. In OSHA's hierarchy of controls, engineering controls should be used before Administrative (work practice) Controls and Personal Protective Equipment
      Higher Risk Biological Spills: For the purposes of this SOP, BSL2+ outside of primary containment
      Incident Report: University of Rochester online Employee Incident Reporting System for work-related employee injuries and illnesses
      Lower Risk Biological Spills: For the purposes of this SOP,
      1. All BSL1 spills
      2. human blood, body fluids, tissues, cell/cell lines outside of primary containment
      Moderate Risk Biological Spills: For the purposes of this SOP, BSL2 microorganisms outside of primary containment
      NIH OSP: National Institutes of Health Office of Science Policy, the branch of NIH that administers the NIH guidelines
      NIH Guidelines:NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules
      OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
      Primary Containment: CDC and NIH follow OSHA's hierachy of controls, and add the "box within a box" concept of Primary and Secondary Barriers. Engineering controls are Primary Barriers that protect lab personnel. Primary barriers/containment equipment generally rely on HEPA filters adn secure closures (o-ring), and include biological safety cabinets, centrifuge safety cups, adn other aerosol containment.
      UR IBC: University of Rochester Institutional Biosafety Committee, composed of faculty, staff and community members; required by the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules
    It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator and laboratory supervisor to ensure that
    • an appropriate spill response plan for their lab has been developed using these generic procedures as a basis,
    • the spill plan for their lab is adequate for the agents possessed adn the type of techniques / experiments conducted with those agents
    • each individual in their lab is familiar with it, and
    • an appropriate disinfectant, personal protective equipment, and waste containers are readily available.

    The NIH Guidelines require that all obvious exposures to organisms containing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules that occur in BSL2 labs are immediately reported to the Institutional Biosafety Committee and NIH OSP. Personnel must submit an Incident Report (employees) or call EH&S (non-employees).

    The University Biosafety Officer approves spill procedures for BSL2+ labs.

  5. PROCEDURES - go to next page PART 2

    Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

    This page last updated 11/13/2018. Disclaimer.