Laboratory accidents that may result in infection arise primarily from needlesticks or other cuts; hand to mouth contamination (poor lab technique, poor housekeeping or contamination through spills); failure to wear PPE resulting in splashes into the eyes or infection through breaks in the skin. Aerosolization of biological materials is another potential source of a laboratory acquired infection, especially resulting from accidents involving dropping a microbial loaded plate or growth flask; centrifuge rotor leaks; blocked syringe filters or syringe failures; and aerosolization of particles during pipetting, vortexing, centrifuging, homogenizing; or malfunction of equipment. (See Bennett, A. and Parks, S. (2006) Microbial aerosol generation during laboratory accidents and subsequent risk assessment. J. of Applied Microbiology100 658-663 and the following study on laboratory acquired viral infections.)
Researchers should be aware of the hazards of each operation within an experiment, and must follow protocols designed to minimize the potential for a laboratory accident:
- Become knowledgeable about the hazards related to the research and carefully plan each step of the experiment
- Work in a Biological Safety Cabinet; use sealed rotor cups, and take other precautions developed in consultation with the Biological Safety Office
- Wear appropriate PPE and change as needed
- Check equipment carefully before use, and use equipment as designed
- Wash hands; decontaminate surfaces
- Know how to respond to a spill or lab accident – contact Biological Safety for a spill kit
The proper procedures to deal with biological spills vary depending on the infectious agent, quantity and location of the event. However, in order to quickly clean-up a biological spill, your laboratory should keep a spill kit handy. A spill kit should include:
- Concentrated disinfectant (chlorine bleach or Lysol®).
- Packages of paper towels
- Forceps to pick up broken glass
- Household rubber gloves
- Utility gloves
- Several biohazard bags
BSL2 and BSL3 practices require different approaches in how to deal with a spill. Follow the procedures listed below in the event of a biological spill or contact Biological Safety for assistance.
Summary of Biological Spill Response.
Additional Information and Resources