In the event of a biological spill, only properly trained personnel should attempt cleanup, and then only if the appropriate tools, PPE, and disinfectants are available. If in doubt, or if the spill is unmanageable, call SOS at 656-2560 to have EHS staff paged. It is important to have a plan of action in the event of an emergency. Knowing the risks and the appropriate response can save you valuable time during an emergency situation.

For a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

Be Prepared

It is important to have a plan of action in the event of an emergency. Knowing the risks and the appropriate response can save you valuable time during an emergency situation. Make sure you have a spill kit available in your laboratory. A biological spill kit should contain:

  • Disposable gown
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Disposable face shield
  • Shoe covers
  • Spill pads or other absorbent material
  • Disinfectant appropriate for agents used in the lab
  • Large forceps and/or dustpan for sharps
  • Sharps container
  • Biohazard bags

Spill Assessment

Not all spills of biological materials present the same risks to personnel and the environment. The volume of the spill is not necessarily the most important factor. In addition, the following should be taken into account:

  • Location of spill & nature of the affected surface(s)
  • Infectivity or toxicity of the material spilled
  • Degree of aerosolization resulting from the spill
  • Complicating materials (broken glass, chemicals, clothing)
  • Ability to effectively disinfect the area

In any spill scenario, the safety of personnel is the most important consideration!

 

Spill Cleanup

Small spills (less than 500 mL) inside the laboratory

  • Keep others away from the spill area
  • Don appropriate PPE (gloves, lab coat, shoe covers, face shield)
  • Gently cover the spill with absorbent material, such as paper towels or spill pads
  • Pour (do not spray) appropriate disinfectant over the spill, starting at the outside and working towards the center.
  • Allow 20 minutes of contact time
  • Use tongs, forceps, or dustpan to clean up broken glass. Dispose into sharps container.
  • Discard used spill pads as biowaste
  • Apply more disinfectant and wipe the area clean
  • Wipe down any tools or equipment used with disinfectant
  • Dispose of all clean up materials and used PPE as biowaste
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water

 

Large spills (over 500 mL) inside the laboratory

  • Immediately evacuate the lab, close the door behind you, and post a do not enter sign on the door
  • If the laboratory in not under negative pressure, cleanup should begin as soon as possible to minimize the spread of aerosols. Always don PPE first.
  • Call SOS at (802) 656-2560 to notify them of the situation. Safety staff will be paged to respond.
  • Remain at a safe distance to answer any questions that responders may have about the agent that was spilled

 

Spills in a centrifuge

  • Close the lid and allow aerosols to settle for at least 30 minutes
  • Don appropriate PPE (disposable lab coat, face shield, gloves)
  • Transfer the rotor and buckets to a biosafety cabinet for disinfection
  • Thoroughly disinfect with an appropriate disinfectant, allow 20 minutes of contact time
  • Discard all cleanup materials and used PPE as biowaste
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water

 

Spills involving sharps

  • Don appropriate PPE (gloves, lab coat, shoe covers, face shield)
  • Never pick up sharps by hand. Use tongs, tweezers, or a dustpan to avoid direct contact.
  • Dispose of any larger pieces of broken glass into the sharps container. Cover the remaining area with absorbent material, such as paper towels or spill pads.
  • Pour (do not spray) appropriate disinfectant over the spill, starting at the outside and working towards the center.
  • Allow 20 minutes of contact time
  • If broken glass was involved, there still may be small pieces present. Carefully collect the used spill pads with tongs.
  • Discard used spill pads as biowaste
  • Apply more disinfectant and wipe the area clean
  • Wipe down any tools or equipment used with disinfectant
  • Dispose of all clean up materials and used PPE as biowaste
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water
  • For more information on sharps, please refer to the Sharps Safety page.

 

Spills inside of a biosafety cabinet

  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate PPE (disposable lab coat, face shield, nitrile gloves)
  • Allow the BSC to run continuously during cleanup
  • Gently cover the spill with paper towels or spill pads, do not allow the spill to spread.
  • Apply appropriate disinfectant and allow 20 minutes of contact time
  • Disinfect all interior surfaces of the BSC
  • Dispose of all clean up materials and used PPE as biowaste
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water
  • Allow BSC to run for 10 additional minutes before resuming work or shutting off

 

Spills outside of the laboratory

  • Immediately clear the area of all persons and secure the area.
  • Call SOS at (802) 656-2560 to have safety staff paged
  • Cleanup should begin as soon as possible to prevent the spread of aerosols.
  • Only attempt cleanup if the appropriate tools and PPE are available.

Please refer to our Transporting Biological Materials page for proper transport procedures.