21. Biological Spills

Since spills of biological materials will happen, it is important to be prepared prior to having to deal with the problem. Assess the spill! Is it a large spill or a small spill? A large spill is generally defined as a sufficient quantity that if spilled tends to seek its own level. In other words it runs to a low point. The main concept that would cause one to treat a large spill differently is containment: one would want to make sure the spill did not spread and contaminate other areas.

21.1 Biohazard Spill Cleanup Procedures

The following procedures are provided as a basic guideline to biohazardous spill cleanup, and will need to be modified for specific situations. As with any emergency situation: stay calm, call 2999 if necessary, and proceed with common sense. Call 064-710719 if further assistance is required, especially if the spill outgrows the resources in the laboratory.

Additional information regarding an emergency plan is included in Appendix F of CDC/NIH Biosafety in the Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.

21.2 Spill Kit

All laboratories working with biohazards should have a basic biological spill kit ready to use at all times. For most instances, the basic kit can be assembled with materials already available in the laboratory. Although it is preferable to have the contents of the spill kit in one location, as long as the materials are easily accessible to everyone in the lab, prior assembly might not be necessary.

The basic biological spill kit contains:

21.3 Exposed Personnel:

21.4 Spills inside the Laboratory

21.4.1 Spills in a Biological Safety Cabinet

The following procedures are to be followed carefully:

21.4.2 Spills Inside a Centrifuge

If a centrifuge tube breaks while the centrifuge is running, turn off the motor. Allow the machine to be at rest for 30 minutes before opening. Or, 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.

21.5 Spills of Biohazardous Radioactive Material

A biohazardous spill involving radioactive material requires emergency procedures which are different from the procedures used for either material alone. In general, the biological component is inactivated with disinfectant and then the spill is handled as a radioactive spill.

Before any cleanup, consider the type of radionuclide, characteristics of the microorganism, and the volume of the spill. Spills involving 14C or 3H represent no external hazard to personnel. However, more energetic gamma or beta emitters may require hand and body protection. Do not autoclave any radioactive materials without the approval of the Radiation Safety Office.

Do not use bleach to decontaminate any biohazardous spill containing 125I.

21.5.1 Emergency Procedures

21.5.2 Cleanup of Biohazardous Radioactive Material

21.6 Spills Outside the Laboratory, During Transport in the Institute

Always transport biohazardous materials in an unbreakable well-sealed primary container placed inside a leak-proof, closed and unbreakable secondary container, labeled with the biohazard symbol (plastic cooler, bio-specimen pack, etc).

Should a spill of BL2 material occur in the public area, do not attempt to clean up the spill without the proper personal protective equipment and spill cleanup material.

As an interim measure, wear gloves and place paper towels, preferably soaked in disinfectant, directly on spilled materials to prevent spread of contamination. To assure adequate contact, surround the spill with disinfectant, if available, taking care to minimize aerosols.

Recommended Containment Levels For Infectious Agents