Biological Laboratory Practices

Select Agents

In addition to general safety guidelines, special precautions are required when handling select agents and biological toxins, high consequence livestock pathogens or toxins, and plant pathogens with a high degree of acute toxicity. The Registered User should ensure that precautions designed to minimize risk of exposure to these substances are taken. The following are minimum guidelines:

  • Report any newly identified select agents or toxins, high consequence livestock pathogens or toxins and plant pathogens immediately to EHS.
  • Quantities of select agents or toxins should be minimized, as should their concentrations such as in cultures, broths, or lyophilizing these select agents and biological toxins.
  • Using work practices that block routes of exposure can prevent workplace infection. Good microbiological techniques must always be used in the laboratory.
  • Each laboratory using these substances must designate an area for this purpose, sign or mark this area with an appropriate hazard warning such as a Biohazard Warning Sign.
  • All laboratory workers and ancillary workers in a laboratory with an area designated for use with select agents, biological toxins, and acutely toxic chemicals must be trained in the harmful effects of these substances. This should include recognizing signs and symptoms of exposure. Training to safely handle and store these substances is required for those who use or may potentially be exposed to these materials. This training is the responsibility of the Registered User or Principal Investigator and must be done prior to the use of any of these materials.
  • Laboratory workers using these select agents and biological toxins must have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (available at no expense to the worker) and must be trained to properly use this equipment.
  • Detection equipment may be required if acutely toxic chemicals are used with biohazardous material.
  • All unwanted chemical hazardous materials contaminating biohazardous material should be collected and disposed of promptly.
  • The designated working area must be thoroughly decontaminated and cleaned at regular intervals that are determined by the Principal Investigator. The interval may be as short as every few minutes to as long as one day depending upon the frequency of usage and the level of hazard.
  • Special precautions are required to avoid release and exposure of biohazardous materials. For instance pipetting liquid biohazardous agents should always be conducted in a certified biosafety cabinet. Needles should never be recapped due to the high risk of punctures.
  • Emergency response planning for biohazardous releases or spills should be prepared by the Principal Investigator and be included in the training of the laboratory workers and others in the building who may be affected.