Biological Materials Spill Large

If a potentially hazardous release occurs in a laboratory or at work at Virginia Tech, follow instructions from your supervisor and site-specific plans. Trained laboratory personnel are authorized to determine appropriate emergency response measures for their areas. The following is general advice for people who might be on their own.

If you discover on-campus a spill of biological materials that may be hazardous, immediately alert the calling 911. Remember to state that you are calling from campus. Make sure you report spills to your supervisor as well.

Planning for spills

The consequences of any spill of biological material can be minimized by performing all work on a plastic-backed absorbent liner to absorb spills. A simple spill kit should be readily available and should include the following items:

  • Chlorine bleach or some other concentrated disinfectant
  • Package or roll of paper towels
  • Autoclavable bag
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Forceps for picking up broken glass

Spills inside a biological safety cabinet

  1. LEAVE THE CABINET TURNED ON.
  2. Put on gloves and a lab coat.
  3. Spray or wipe cabinet walls, work surfaces, and equipment with disinfectant equivalent to a 1:10 bleach solution. If necessary, flood the work surface, as well as drain pans and catch basins below the work surface, with disinfectant.
  4. Wait at least 20 minutes.
  5. Soak up disinfectant and spill with paper towels. Drain catch basin into a container. Lift front exhaust grill and tray and wipe all surfaces. Ensure that no paper towels or solid debris are blown into the area beneath the grill.
  6. Autoclave all clean-up materials before disposal in the biohazardous waste container.
  7. Wash hands and any exposed surfaces thoroughly after the clean-up procedure.
  8. Inform your supervisor about the spill. For assistance call 911.

Small spill outside a biological safety cabinet

A spill can be labeled as small if it is one that can be covered by a few paper towels.

  1. Put on gloves and a lab coat.
  2. Cover spill with paper towels and gently apply disinfectant, proceeding from the outer edge of the spill to its center.
  3. Leave in place for at least 20 minutes
  4. Pick up the towels and discard into a biohazard container. Use forceps to pick up any broken glass and place it into a sharps container.
  5. Re-wipe the spill area with disinfectant.
  6. Remove gloves and thoroughly wash hands.
  7. Inform your supervisor about the spill. For assistance call 911.

A large spill of biohazards outside a biological safety cabinet

A biohazardous spill (BSL2 or Higher) outside of a biological safety cabinet can be labeled as large if it is more than 500 ml.

  1. HOLD YOUR BREATH AND LEAVE THE ROOM IMMEDIATELY.
  2. Warn others to stay out of the spill area to prevent spread of contamination.
  3. Post a sign on the door warning others of the biological materials spill.
  4. Remove any contaminated clothing and put it into a biohazard bag for later autoclaving.
  5. Wash hands and exposed skin.
  6. Inform your supervisor about the spill. For assistance call 911.
  7. With your supervisor's approval, put on protective clothing (lab coat, gloves, mask, eye protection, shoe covers) and assemble clean-up materials.
  8. Wait 30 minutes before re-entering the contaminated area to allow dissipation of aerosols.
  9. Cover the spill with paper towels and gently apply disinfectant, proceeding from the outer edge of the spill to its center.
  10. Leave in place for at least 20 minutes.
  11. Collect all treated materials and discard in a biohazard container. Use forceps to pick up any broken glass and place in a sharps container.
  12. Re-wipe the spill area with disinfectant.
  13. Properly remove and dispose of gloves
  14. Wash hands thoroughly.

Biosafety levels (BSL), agents, factors, and practices

BSL

Agents

Factors

Practices

1

Agents that are not associated with disease in healthy human adults

None

Standard lab and management practices, including appropriate medical surveillance programs

2

Associated with human disease which is rarely serious and for which preventive or therapeutic interventions are often available

Not known to be transmittable by inhalation

No aerosol production planned

BSL-1 practices plus:

  • Limited access
  • Biohazard warning signs
  • Sharps precautions
  • Biosafety manual
  • Decontamination of all infectious wastes prior to disposal

2/3

Associated with human disease; special precautions required for some agents

BSL-2 facility with BSL-3 controls

BSL-2 practices plus:

  • Controlled access
  • Decontamination of clothing before laundering
  • Equipment decontaminated before removed

3

Agents associated with serious or lethal human disease for which preventive or therapeutic interventions may be available (high individual risk but low community risk)

No or limited sharps allowed

All work with infectious agent done in biosafety cabinet

BSL-2 practices plus:

  • Controlled access
  • Decontamination of clothing before laundering
  • Equipment decontaminated before removed
  • Disinfectant foot bath as needed

4

Agents that are likely to cause serious or lethal human disease for which preventive or therapeutic interventions are not usually available (high individual risk and high community risk)

Not allowed in VT labs

NA