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General Biosafety Guidelines

Biohazardous materials require special safety precautions and procedures. Follow these guidelines when working with infectious agents:

Personal Hygiene Guidelines:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, as indicated below:
    • After working with any biohazard
    • After removing gloves, laboratory coat, and other contaminated protective clothing
    • Before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics
    • Before leaving the laboratory area
    • Do not touch your face when handling biological material
    • Never eat, drink, smoke, or apply cosmetics in the work area

Clothing Guidelines

  • Always wear a lab coat gown or scrub suit, gloves, and a surgical mask when working with infectious agents or infected animals.
  • Never wear contact lenses around infectious agents.
  • Do not wear potentially contaminated clothing outside the laboratory area.
  • To remove contaminated clothing, follow these steps:
    • Remove booties from the back.
    • Remove head covering from the peak
    • Untie gown while wearing gloves
    • Remove gloves by peeling them from the inside out
    • Remove the gown by slipping your finger under the sleeve cuff of the gown

Handling Procedures

  • Use mechanical pipetting devices.
  • Minimize aerosol production.
  • Add disinfectant to water baths for infectious substances.
  • Use trunnion cups with screw caps for centrifuging procedures. Inspect the tubes before use.
  • Use secondary leak-proof containers when transporting samples, cultures, inoculated petri dishes, and other containers of biohazardous materials.

Avoid using syringes and needles whenever possible. If a syringe is necessary, minimize your chances of exposure by following these guidelines:

  • Use a needle-locking or disposable needle unit.
  • Take care not to stick yourself with a used needle.
  • Place used syringes into a pan of disinfectant without removing the needles.
  • Do not place used syringes in pans containing pipets or other glassware that require sorting.
  • Do not cut, bend, recap or remove used needles.
  • Dispose of needles in an approved sharps container.

Work Area

  • Keep laboratory doors shut when experiments are in progress.
  • Limit access to laboratory areas when experiments involve biohazardous agents.
  • Ensure that warning signs are posted on laboratory doors. These signs should include the universal biohazard symbol and the approved biosafety level for the laboratory.
  • Ensure that vacuum lines have a suitable filter trap.
  • Decontaminate work surfaces daily and after each spill.
  • Decontaminate all potentially contaminated equipment.
  • Transport contaminated materials in leak-proof containers.
  • Keep miscellaneous material (i.e., books, journals, etc.) away from contaminated areas.
  • Completely decontaminate equipment before having maintenance or repair work done.

Universal Precautions
Clinical and diagnostic laboratories often handle specimens without full knowledge of the material's diagnosis; these specimens may contain infectious agents. To minimize exposure, observe universal precautions when handling any biological specimen. Consider all specimens to be infectious and treat these materials as potentially hazardous.