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Biosafety Page


Biosafety Emergencies

Exposures to Infectious Agents or Material
Spills outside of a containment device
Spills inside of a Biosafety Cabinet (BSC)
Spills inside of a centrifuge

Exposures to Infectious Agents Including Recombinant DNA Materials

An exposure is defined as contact with broken skin, eyes, nose, mouth, other mucous membranes, a percutaneous injury with a contaminated sharp, or contact with an infectious agent over a large area of apparently intact skin.

To the SKIN:  Immediately remove contaminated clothing and wash the contaminated area with soap and water for 15 minutes. 

To the EYES:  Immediately flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes at an eyewash or faucet.  Remove contact lenses while flushing the eye.

Medical Treatment

  • If an injury is life-threatening or you need transport assistance,   call 911 from a University phone or 609 258 3333 from a cell phone.
  • During weekday, daytime hours, seek treatment at University Health Services.  Ask a co-worker to call ahead (609 258 5035).
  • For exposures to biosafety level 2 materials, including recombinant DNA, that occur during night and weekend hours, contact the Department of Public Safety and request transport to the Emergency Room at the Princeton University Medical Center.
  • Report all exposures to your immediate supervisor and Principal Investigator.
  • Principal Investigators are responsible for reporting exposure incidents to EHS Biosafety.
  • EHS Biosafety will perform a follow-up investigation of the incident.

Preparing for Spills

Most spills involving infectious agents and recombinant DNA materials can be effectively handled by researchers. Supplies to properly clean a spill must be available in any lab that works with or stores biohazardous materials.

Recommended Supplies

  • An appropriate disinfectant which works against the agents of concern: e.g., microorganisms or human-derived materials.  For clean-up of larger spills, alcohol is not recommended due to flammability concerns.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) including a lab coat or gown, and gloves. A face shield and shoe covers may be required.
  • sharps containers for  collection of broken glass
  • absorbent material such as bench liners or paper towels
  • tongs to pick up broken glass
  • autoclave bags

Spill Protocol for Biosafety Level 2 Agents, Including Recombinant DNA Material

Instruct injured or exposed personnel to administer first aid and seek medical attention. 

Small spills:

Wipe up spill with a disinfectant-soaked paper towel and clean the surface with a suitable disinfectant.

Large Spills

Spills outside of a containment device

The spill is not inside of a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC), centrifuge, or other lab equipment.
Close off spill area to traffic, and notify coworkers.

1. If the spill may involve an aerosol, instruct all occupants to leave the room for 30 minutes to allow aerosols to settle. Aerosols can form if material is dropped   Place a sign on the door warning staff not to enter the room due to a spill.

2. Remove contaminated lab coat or clothing and wash exposed skin.

3. Put on clean gloves and lab coat.

4. Prepare enough volume of a 1:10 dilution of chlorine bleach or other approved disinfectant to saturate the contaminated area.

5. Contain the spill with paper towels or other absorbent material such as bench liners.

6. Flood the spill area with disinfectant. Leave on for 10 minutes.

7. Push the absorbent material at the edge of the spill into the spill's center. Add more paper towels as needed.

8. If glass is present, use tongs or forceps and a dustpan to remove pieces and place into a sharps container.

9. Discard the paper towels into a regulated medical waste container.

10. Using clean paper towels and a disinfectant, wipe all surfaces that may have come in contact with the spilled material.

11. Discard gloves into regulated medical waste container.

12. Wash hands thoroughly.

13. Autoclave an overtly contaminated lab coat prior to placing into laboratory laundry bag.

14. Notify Principal Investigator or Supervisor and the BSO.

Spills inside of a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

    1. Leave BSC on.

    2. Follow steps 2 through 10 above.  Do not use 70% ethanol as it evaporates too quickly to allow adequate surface contact time.

    3. If the cabinet has a catch basin beneath the work surface and the spill resulted in liquids flowing into this area, more extensive decontamination is required.

    • Ensure the drain valve under the cabinet is closed.
    • Pour disinfectant onto the work surface and through the front and rear grilles into the drain pan. Allow 20-30 minutes contact time.
    • Absorb spilled fluid-disinfectant from work surface with paper towels & discard in biohazard bag.
    • Prepare to empty drain pan. Place fresh disinfectant solution in a collection vessel. Attach flexible tubing to the drain valve. The tube should be of sufficient length to allow the open end to be submerged in the collection vessel to minimize aerosol generation.
    • Open the drain valve and empty the drain pan into the collection vessel containing disinfectant. Flush the drain pan with water and remove the flexible tubing. Manage contaminated materials as if they are infectious.
    • Remove protective clothing used during cleanup and place in a biohazard bag for autoclaving.
    • Wash hands after gloves are removed.
    • Notify Principal Investigator or supervisor. Consult with EHS Biosafety (258-5294) to determine if vapor/gas decontamination of the cabinet and filters is necessary.
    • Run BSC at least 10 minutes after cleanup, before resuming activity in the cabinet.

Spills in a centrifuge

Spills or breakage of containers inside of an operating centrifuge pose a serious potential for exposure due to the creation of aerosols. If a primary container has broken in a centrifuge without a closed rotor or bucket, immediately suspend use, notify lab staff and PI and request assistance from the Biosafety Officer.
For suspected or confirmed spills/breakage in any centrifuge, wait at least 30 minutes after the centrifuge has stopped operating to initiate clean-up.

1. Put on lab coat, gloves and a face shield prior to opening centrifuge.  Open carefully to assess the damage. 

2. If the spill is contained within a closed cup, bucket or rotor, spray the exterior with disinfectant and allow at least 10 minutes of contact time.  Remove the carrier to the nearest biosafety cabinet (BSC).  If a biosafety cabinet is not available, close the centrifuge, post a sign to indicate it cannot be used.  Notify the PI and Biosafety Office for assistance.

3. If a BSC is available, gather supplies needed, such as a sharps container for broken glass and bins filled with disinfectant and place into the BSC.  Use forceps to remove broken glass and place directly into sharps container.  Carefully remove any unbroken tubes and place into a bin filled with disinfectant for 20 minutes.  Wipe carrier/bucket with disinfectant.

4. After disinfection, carrier, bucket or rotor should be washed with a mild soap and water.

5.Spray the interior of the centrifuge chamber with a disinfectant, let sit for 20 minutes and then wipe down.

6. Remove protective clothing and wash hands.



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