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Environmental Health & Safety

Emergency Procedures for Laboratory Biohazards

Printable file is available with Adobe Acrobat Reader:
PDF Version of Emergency Procedures for Biological Spills in BSL1, BSL2 and BSL2+ Labs

    1. Risk Assessment:

      It is important to understand the risks and transmission routes of each biological possessed by the lab.  In accordance with federal requirements (NIH Guidelines, CDC/NIH), all labs working at BSL2 and above must have a Biosafety Manual.  UR’s IBC requires that the manual include a section for biological agent overview, transmission routes, clinical signs, strains resistant to treatment, etc., and reference options include, but are not limited to:

      When assessing a spill to determine what type of response is necessary, the following should be considered:

      1. What was spilled? [e.g. physical characteristics of the spilled material (e.g. liquid vs. solid), potential hazards of particular organism]
      2. How much was spilled? (e.g. volume and concentration of the organism)
      3. Where is the spill? (e.g. in a BSC, in a centrifuge, in the lab, outside the lab)
      4. What is the potential for release outside the lab?

      Lower Risk Biological Spills (for the purposes of this SOP):

      • All BSL1 spills
      • Human blood, body fluids, tissues, cells/cell lines outside of primary containment

      Moderate Risk Biological Spills (for the purposes of this SOP): BSL2 microorganisms outside of primary containment

      Higher Risk Biological Spills (for the purposes of this SOP): BSL2+ outside of primary containment

    2. General Procedure for Biological Spills
    3. For a template of the General Procedure for Biological Spills, contact EH&S.

      1. Try not to breathe (for aerosols) as you step back from the spill.  Once you’re a distance you think will have fewer aerosols, alert people in the immediate area of the spill and evacuate.  If spill is in a lab, ensure the doors are closed.
        • For BSL2 and BSL2+ spills
        • Do not re-enter the area for at least 30 minutes.  This allows aerosols to settle and to be exhausted by the building ventilation system.
        • Post a “Biohazard Spill – Do Not Enter” sign on doors to keep all unnecessary people out of the area
          Hint: Keep one in your spill kit along with a magnetic clip for the door; print on red paper or affix a biohazard sticker, laminate).
      2. Call Public Safety by dialing 13 from a campus phone or 275-3333 from a cell phone if needed to:
        1. Limit access to the area, if the spill is in a hallway or running under the door.
        2. Respond to injuries that require emergency personnel.  Public Safety will notify emergency personnel and help direct emergency personnel to your location.  This is the fastest way to get help!
          • UR’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) for the Medical Center
          • Paramedics for River Campus
        3. Get help for larger spills from EH&S’s Spill Team
      3. Remove contaminated clothing.
      4. For exposures, immediately wash, call, report:
        1. Wash
          • Intact skin - wash with soap and water
          • Non-intact skin and needlesticks/scalpel cuts - wash with soap and water
          • Intra-oral exposure - spit and rinse the mouth with water
          • Eyes – use the lab’s eyewash.  (Note: Remove contact lenses first. After rinsing eyes, disinfect contacts per manufacturer’s recommendation.)
        2. Call
          • Blood Exposure Hotline (275-2662) for exposures to human blood, body fluids, tissues, or cells/cell lines (or HIV)
          • For all other exposures:
            • During office hours - University Health Service (MC 1-5000, 275-2662)
            • After hours - Emergency Department
        3. Report
          • Contact his/her supervisor
          • Submit an Incident Report (

            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).
      5. Contain the spill by placing an absorbent material such as paper towels over the area involved.
      6. A properly trained employee performs clean-up and decontamination
        1. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent human blood, other potentially infectious materials, or microorganisms from reaching work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes. Appropriate personal protective equipment includes:
          • double gloves (BSL2, BSL2+) or single gloves (BSL1)
          • lab coat
          • face protection
            • safety glasses or goggles (BSL1)
            • chin-length face shield (BSL2, BSL2+)
            • surgical mask
          • shoe covers/booties (dependent on size of spill, splatter, etc.)
        2. In a circular motion from the edges to the center, gently pour or spray freshly prepared 10% solution of household bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) or the disinfectant listed in the lab’s IBC LAB form to completely cover the spill.  Avoid splashing or splattering of biological material.
        3. Allow the disinfectant to be in contact with the biological for at least 30 minutes.
        4. Pick up any broken glass or sharps by mechanical means, such as tongs or a broom and dustpan.  This debris can then be deposited into a sharps disposal container. Never pick up sharps directly by hand.
        5. Working from the edges to the center, wipe up the spill with absorbent cloth or paper towels. Tongs can be used instead of hands.
          • Re-clean area with fresh paper towels soaked with disinfectant.
          • If the spill was on or in equipment and bleach was used, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the bleach (corrosive to stainless steel).
        6. Discard disposable cloths/towels and disposable protective equipment into a biohazard/medical waste bin (red bag).
        7. Remove non-disposable PPE.
        8. Wash hands with soap and water.
        9. If the spill was on the floor, contact Environmental Services to have the area cleaned with regular detergent-disinfectant. Eastman Dental Center employees are to call the Maintenance Department at 275-5070 to have their area cleaned with regular detergent disinfectant.
        10. Visual demonstrations for how to clean a biohazard spill:

    4. Spills inside a biological safety cabinet (BSC):
      1. Stop work, remove gloves and plan cleanup
      2. Keep the BSC blower turned on
      3. Use General Procedure for Biological Spills
      4. Ensure that cabinet walls, work surface, and equipment inside the cabinet have been disinfected. Do not place your head in the cabinet. If your arm is not long enough to reach the back wall, then use an assist device such as a ‘Swiffer’ with a shortened handle to hold the disinfectant soaked towel.
      5. If the spilled material has gotten under the work surface into the catch basin below, also disinfect the catch basin.
        1. Refer to the BSC’s Operator Manual to locate the drain valve.  Ensure the drain valve is closed.
        2. Perform spill cleanup for the catch basin
        3. If you need to flood the catch basin with disinfectant, you can use the drain valve to empty the liquid into a collection vessel. Attach a hose barb and flexible tube to the drain valve. To minimize aerosol generation, put a small amount of disinfectant in the collection vessel, and then submerge the tube end. Flush the catch basin/drain pan with water. Remove the drain tube.
        4. Reassemble the work surface.
      6. After cleanup is completed, allow the cabinet to run for ten minutes before resuming work.
      7. Visual demonstrations for spill cleanup in a BSC:

    5. Spills inside a centrifuge:
      1. Most BSL2 labs use centrifuge safety cups or biosafety-lidded rotors that allow the rotor to be removed from the centrifuge without opening the lid.  These are opened in the biological safety cabinet.  Perform spill cleanup in the BSC following the general spill procedures.  Also clean the inside of the centrifuge.
      2. For all other spills:
        1. Close the lid, turn off, and follow the General Procedure for Biological Spills.
        2. If possible, move the centrifuge or at least the rotors/buckets to a BSC.
        3. Open the rotor/bucket and using a squeeze bottle, apply disinfectant to inside rotor/bucket.
        4. Carefully remove any broken glass from inside rotor/bucket using forceps and place in a sharps disposal container.
        5. Drain/suction the disinfectant from the rotor/bucket. Thoroughly wipe down the inside of the rotor/bucket including the lid with paper towels soaked in disinfectant. Rinse with water or ethanol and dry rotor/bucket and lid.
        6. Rinse the disinfectant from the centrifuge chamber with water or ethanol. Absorb the liquid with paper towels and wipe down thoroughly.
      3. Avoid using bleach on rotor / buckets. Use a previously-approved alternate disinfectant.
      Centrifuge Spill Plan - Plan

      "Biohazard Spill - Do Not Enter" door sign template - (hint: print on red papre or affix a biohazard sticker, laminate, and have in spill kit with magnetic clip for the door. - Spill Sign
  5. Date

    Revision No.


    2/1/2012 1 Included UHS for exposure reporting
    6/12/13 2 Revisions following NIH OBA site visit
    6/27/18 3 Update title and purpose (labs), update definitions, harmonize with Lab Safety Training, add video web links, update references, replace appendix

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

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