Biosafety Stewardship

During National Biosafety Month, you are encouraged to focus attention on biosafety policies, practices and procedures. Investigators and laboratory managers should raise biosafety awareness, discuss the importance of safety, and seek input on ways to strengthen biosafety practices and procedures in their labs.

For 2017, EH&S is focusing on sharps safety in research and exposure response.

Sharps Safety in Research

EH&S would like to raise awareness about how to safely work with needles and other sharps to prevent injuries and exposures. Anyone who uses sharps or sharp items as a part of their research should review our new Sharps Safety in Research PDF. To stay safe when working with sharps:

  • Plan and Prepare - Consider if there are alternatives to using sharps for your procedure. Educate yourself on the risks, get properly trained on procedures and the specific sharps you will use, and know how to properly dispose of sharps immediately after use.
  • Use Safe Procedures and Stay Aware - Use extreme caution and awareness at all times when handling needles or syringes. Do not recap or bend needles, avoid rushing or working when tired. Read more in Sharps Safety in Research.
  • Exposure Response - Know how to respond if an exposure, needlestick, or other injury does occur. Always follow the procedures on the Exposure Response Poster.

Know How to Respond to an Exposure or Accident

EH&S has a new and improved Exposure Response Poster. This poster tells you exactly what to do if you are exposed to a chemical, biological, or radiological agent. Be sure all laboratory or facility staff know where the poster is and when to use it.

In the event of an exposure, there are three steps to take:

  1. Perform first aid immediately.
  2. Call for medical help.
  3. Report the incident to EH&S so that we can work to prevent future accidents.

Download the new poster, print in color, and hang in your laboratory or facility. Remove any old versions of the poster.

What's in your freezer?

What's in your freezer?

If you haven't done a thorough cleaning of your lab freezers recently, there's a good chance it's crowded with duplicate samples, items left behind by previous personnel, and other forgotten materials. October is National Biosafety Month -- a great time to inventory your stored biological materials.

Dispose of items that are:

  • unneeded or unwanted
  • abandoned or orphaned
  • unlabeled, unknown, or unidentifiable
  • expired
Organize and inventory what's left:
  • Clearly label items you want to keep.
  • Keep an inventory, and update it on a regular schedule. A simple spreadsheet is great!
  • Update your Biological Use Authorization (BUA) to include current biological materials.
  • Create a routine for cleaning your freezers, refrigerators, and cryogenic storage.

If you need help with your biological inventory, aren't sure how to dispose of an item, or need to add or remove items on your BUA, contact EH&S Research and Occupational Safety at or 206.221.7770.

Biological Use Authorization

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) approval of research increases safety and transparency. An effective and compliant IBC is also a requirement for NIH funding to the University.

The Biological Use Authorization approval process can help to identify if you have organisms or toxins that require enrollment in the Select Agent Program or require other registrations (e.g. NIH or APHIS). The approval process provides an opportunity to work with a biosafety officer who can help you navigate the NIH Guidelines and other regulations to help ensure that your research receives funding.

  • Apply for Biological Use Authorization if your research involves work with biohazards including recombinant or synthetic DNA/RNA.
  • Submit a Change to BUA application for any new agents, procedures, or locations.
  • Consult with an EH&S biosafety officer regarding lab practices and procedures.


EH&S provides several online and classroom training courses at no charge to UW faculty, staff, and students.

  • Review the EH&S safety training schedule and training matrix.
  • Access EH&S training records online at My EH&S Training.
  • Biosafety training is required every three years for PIs with research involving biohazards and all lab personnel with potential exposure to biohazards.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) training is required annually for staff with reasonably anticipated exposure to BBP including human source materials.

Lab-specific training increases safety awareness and help to ensure lab staff are knowledgeable about risks and safe work practices.

  • Review agent-specific risks, work practices, and decontamination procedures.
  • Demonstrate appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Educate staff on proper biohazardous waste handling procedures.
  • Provide training on how to work safely in a biosafety cabinet.

Review Practices and Procedures

Now is a great time to review practices and procedures in your lab that impact safety. Administrative controls can greatly reduce exposure to hazards and increase the culture of safety in your lab.

  • Implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure proper handling of infectious materials and toxins.
  • Use the PPE Assessment Guide to determine PPE needs.
  • Ensure staff wash their hands after removing gloves and before exiting the lab.

Occupational Health

Preventative and post-exposure medical management is an integral part of an effective biosafety program.

  • Review medical management procedures for vaccine offerings and other considerations.
  • Post the Exposure Response Poster in all lab areas.
  • Remind staff to report all accidents and injuries in the UW OARS system to help prevent future accidents.
  • Contact the UW Employee Health Center at 206.685.1026 for personal medical questions related to work in the laboratory environment.


If you have ideas or suggestions for how EH&S and the IBC can enhance biosafety at UW and influence a positive safety culture, contact us at or 206.221.7770.

Additional Resources