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Emergency Procedures


Biological Materials Spill Procedures

Spills outside of a containment device
Spills inside of a Biosafety Cabinet (BSC)
Spills inside of a centrifuge

Preparing for Spills

Most spills involving biosafety level 2 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, shoe covers or a respirator 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

Biosafety Level 2 Spill Protocol

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.

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.

  • 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.
  • Remove contaminated lab coat or clothing and wash exposed skin.
  • Put on clean gloves and lab coat.
  • Prepare enough volume of a 1:10 dilution of chlorine bleach or other approved disinfectant to saturate the contaminated area.
  • Contain the spill with paper towels or other absorbent material such as a bench liners.
  • Flood the spill area with disinfectant. Leave on for 10 minutes.
  • Push the absorbent material at the edge of the spill into the spill's center. Add more paper towels as needed.
  • If glass is present, use tongs or forceps and a dustpan to remove pieces and place into a sharps container.
  • Discard the paper towels into a regulated medical waste container .
  • Using clean paper towels and a disinfectant, wipe all surfaces that may have come in contact with the spilled material.
  • Discard gloves into regulated medical waste container.
  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Autoclave an overtly contaminated lab coat to prior to placing into laboratory laundry bag.
  • Notify supervisor and/or Principal Investigator.

Spills inside of a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

  • Leave BSC on.
  • Put on gloves and lab coat and gather paper towels for cleaning.
  • Prepare a fresh dilution of 1:10 bleach or approved disinfectant. Prepare enough solution to cover the entire contaminated area. Always follow manufacturer’s directions. Do not use 70% ethanol as it evaporates too quickly to allow adequate surface contact time.
  • Flood the area with disinfectant solution and allow to remain in contact for required time.  For example, 10% bleach requires 10 minutes of contact time.
  • Spray and or wipe down the cabinet interior and any items inside the BSC with a towel dampened with disinfectant.
  • Discard all contaminated disposable items and towels used for cleaning into a regulated medical waste container or autoclave.
  • 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 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 inside of an operating centrifuge pose a serious potential for exposure due to the creation of aerosols.    

Unsealed buckets:
Contact EHS Biosafety at 258-5294 for advice on personal protective equipment for spills inside of centrifuges without containment.

    • If a centrifuge tube breaks while the centrifuge is running, turn off motor. Allow the machine to be at rest for 30 minutes before opening. If breakage is discovered after the machine has stopped, re-close the lid immediately and allow the unit to be at rest for 30 minutes.
    • Unplug centrifuge before initiating clean up.
    • Don strong, thick rubber gloves, and face shield before proceeding with clean up.  A respirator may be needed; consult with EHS Biosafety at 258-5294.
    • Flood centrifuge bowl with a germicidal disinfectant. Place paper towels soaked in a disinfectant over the entire spill area. Allow 20 minutes contact time.
    • Use mechanical means (such as forceps) to remove broken tubes and glass fragments. Place them into a sharps container.
    • Remove buckets, trunnions and rotor. Place in disinfectant for 24 hours or autoclave.
    • Unbroken, capped tubes may be placed in disinfectant and recovered after 20 minutes contact time or autoclaved.
    • Use mechanical means to remove remaining disinfectant soaked materials from centrifuge bowl & discard as infectious waste.
    • Place paper towels soaked in a disinfectant in the centrifuge bowl & allow it to soak overnight, wipe down again with disinfectant, wash with water and dry. Discard disinfectant soaked materials as infectious waste.
    • Remove protective clothing used during cleanup & place in a biohazard bag for autoclaving. Wash hands whenever gloves are removed.

Sealed buckets (safety cups):

    • If breakage is suspected, remove the sealed bucket to a biological safety cabinet before opening.
    • If breakage occurred, replace the cap on the safety cup loosely and autoclave.
    • Notify Principal Investigator or supervisor EHS Biosafety (258-5294)


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