Biohazardous Spills
Includes all Recombinant DNA

Each Principal Investigator is responsible for developing spill clean-up procedures that are appropriate for the materials used in the laboratory, as well as assuring that a spill kit is assembled and placed in a strategic location outside of, but near to, an area where a spill could occur.

If spill results in a potential for personal exposure, follow the instructions on the EH&S Exposure Response Poster.

Furthermore, anyone working with biological materials must receive training in spill clean-up appropriate for materials routinely used.


Biohazardous Spill Inside a Biological Safety Cabinet

Spill inside a Biological Safety Cabinet (stays contained on the work surface)

Spill cleanup procedures should be initiated at once while the cabinet continues to operate to prevent escape of contaminants from the cabinet.

  1. Remove any sharp, contaminated objects from the spill area using mechanical means (like tongs or forceps), never with hands. Discard contaminated sharps in a sturdy, leak-proof, biohazard labeled sharps container;
  2. Cover spill with paper towels or other absorbent material. Slowly pour a decontaminant solution which is appropriate for the agent involved (refer to Section IV-E Decontamination ) around the spill and allow to flow into the spill. Paper towels soaked with the decontaminant may also be used to cover the area. An example of an appropriate decontaminant for use in biological safety cabinets is freshly prepared 1:10 dilution of household bleach, 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (left on for an appropriate contact time) followed by a final rinse with water to avoid any corrosion caused by bleach on stainless steel work surfaces;
  3. Contact time: At least thirty minutes is generally considered an appropriate contact time for decontamination, but this varies with the decontaminant and the microbiological agent. Manufacturer's directions should be followed;
  4. Wipe up spill, work surfaces, walls, and any equipment in the cabinet with paper towels dampened with decontaminant. Do not place your head in the cabinet to clean the spill - keep your face behind the sash;
  5. Place contaminated paper towels and other spill clean-up materials in biohazard bags or autoclavable pans with lids for autoclaving;
  6. Remove any contaminated personal protective equipment in a manner to avoid cross-contamination and dispose of per standard lab practices;
  7. WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY after removing gloves.

Spill inside a Biological Safety Cabinet (flows past the work surface through the front or rear grilles)

A large spill inside a biological safety cabinet that flows past the work surface through the front or rear grilles requires more extensive decontamination. Spill cleanup procedures should be initiated at once while the cabinet continues to operate to prevent escape of contaminants from the cabinet.

  1. Ensure drain valve under the biological safety cabinet is closed;
  2. Remove any sharp, contaminated objects from the spill area using mechanical means (like tongs or forceps), never with hands. Discard contaminated sharps in a sturdy, leak-proof, biohazard labeled sharps container;
  3. Flood the top work surface tray, and if a Class II biological safety cabinet, the drain pans and catch basins below the work surface, with a decontaminating solution which is appropriate for the agent involved (refer to Section IV-E Decontamination ). An example of an appropriate decontaminant for use in biological safety cabinets is freshly prepared 1:10 dilution of household bleach, 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (left on for an appropriate contact time) followed by a final rinse with water to avoid any corrosion caused by bleach on stainless steel work surfaces;
  4. Contact time: At least thirty minutes is generally considered an appropriate contact time for decontamination, but this varies with the disinfectant and the microbiological agent. Manufacturer's directions should be followed;
  5. Remove excess decontaminant from the work surface tray by wiping with a sponge or cloth. For Class II biological safety cabinets, drain the tray into the catch basin below the work surface, lift out tray and removable front intake grille, and wipe off top and bottom (underside) surfaces with a sponge or cloth soaked in a decontaminant. Then replace in position and drain decontaminant from the cabinet base into appropriate container and dispose of it in the sewer.
  6. Place spill cleanup materials (e.g., contaminated gloves, cloth and/or sponge) in autoclavable pans with lids for autoclaving;
  7. Remove any contaminated personal protective equipment in a manner to avoid cross-contamination and dispose of per standard lab practices
  8. WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY after removing gloves.

Biohazardous Spill Outside a Biological Safety Cabinet

Small Spills (can be easily wiped with one standard paper towel)

Agent is transmitted by inhalation (e.g. adenovirus, influenza):

  1. Try not to breathe and leave the room immediately. Ask other lab occupants to also leave the room and close the door. One good way to identify the spill area is to drop your laboratory coat on the area on your way out;
  2. Warn others not to enter the contaminated area and post a sign on the door;
  3. Remove contaminated garments and put into a container for autoclaving. Thoroughly wash your hands, face and any other exposed areas of the body;
  4. Wait 30 minutes to allow dissipation of aerosols created by the spill;
  5. Follow decontamination steps below.

Agent is not transmitted by inhalation:

  1. Assemble spill clean-up materials;
  2. Put on appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. long-sleeve lab coat, goggles and nitrile gloves;
  3. Remove any sharp, contaminated objects from the spill area using mechanical means e.g. tongs or forceps. Discard contaminated sharps in a sturdy, leak-proof, biohazard labeled sharps container;
  4. Pour a decontaminant solution (e.g., freshly prepared 1:10 dilution of household bleach) around the spill and allow to flow into the spill. Paper towels soaked with the decontaminant may also be used to cover the area. To avoid aerosolization, never pour decontaminant solution directly onto the spill;
  5. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow an adequate contact time and discard all used spill materials in a biohazard bag;
  6. Remove any contaminated personal protective equipment in a manner to avoid cross-contamination and dispose of per standard lab practices;
  7. WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY after removing gloves.

Large spills (requiring more than one paper towel to wipe)

  1. Hold your breath and leave the room immediately. Ask other lab occupants to also leave the room and close the door. One good way to identify the spill area is to drop your laboratory coat on the area on your way out;
  2. Warn others not to enter the contaminated area and post a sign on the door;
  3. Remove contaminated garments and put into a container for autoclaving. Thoroughly wash your hands, face and any other exposed areas of the body;
  4. Wait 30 minutes to allow dissipation of aerosols created by the spill;
  5. Assemble spill clean-up materials;
  6. Put on appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g., long-sleeve lab coat, goggles and nitrile gloves). For a high risk agent, additional personal protective equipment should be considered;
  7. Remove any sharp, contaminated objects from the spill area using mechanical means e.g. tongs or forceps. Discard contaminated sharps in a sturdy, leak-proof, biohazard labeled sharps container;
  8. Pour a decontaminant solution (e.g., freshly prepared 1:10 dilution of household bleach) around the spill and allow to flow into the spill. Paper towels soaked with the decontaminant may also be used to cover the area. To avoid aerosolization, never pour decontaminant solution directly onto the spill;
  9. Contact time: At least thirty minutes is generally considered an appropriate contact time for decontamination, but this varies with the disinfectant and the microbiological agent. Manufacturer's directions should be followed;
  10. Using an autoclavable dust pan and squeegee, transfer all contaminated materials (paper towels, glass, liquid, gloves, etc.) into a deep autoclave pan. Cover the pan with lid and autoclave according to standard directions. Reusable items should be separated from plastic that is not auotclavable as the plastic will melt and will then be impossible to remove from other items in contact with them;
  11. Remove used personal protective equipment in a manner to avoid cross contamination;
  12. WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY after removing gloves.

Spills Outside the Laboratory in Public Spaces

Samples must be transported in secondary, leak proof containers to minimize the potential for spills. However, if a spill does occur in a common hallway or public space and cannot be immediately decontaminated, cordon off the area, restrict access, and contact the EH&S Research and Occupational Safety at 206-221-7770 for consultation.


Radioactive Biohazardous Spill

Anyone working with both radioactive and biohazardous materials should develop a spill clean-up plan appropriate for all materials used. Decontamination procedures involving the use of bleach may be incompatible with some radioactive materials, especially those containing radioiodine. Contact the Radiation Safety Office at 206-543-0463 for additional information concerning these materials.