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Basics of Biosafety . Working Safely with Biological Materials Central Michigan University College of Science and Technology. What is Biosafety?.

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basics of biosafety

Basics of Biosafety

Working Safely with Biological Materials

Central Michigan University

College of Science and Technology


What is Biosafety?

  • Principles and practices employed to protect laboratory personnel and the environment from exposure or infection while working with living organisms, biological materials, or agents.
    • Included are any materials that may be potentially infectious.
    • Includes recombinant DNA research

Agents and Risks

  • The “agent” is the what creates risk
  • Risks to the worker or environment are often unknown
  • Determining “acceptable risk”?

Assessing Risk

  • There is always risk!
    • The risk must be identified
    • The risk is evaluated
    • The risk must be measured
    • Plan to minimize the risk

Who Determines Acceptable Risk?

  • Assessment is conducted by a Biosafety Professional in partnership with and based on information provided by the Principal Investigator
  • The assessment is presented to the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) for approval

Identifying Risk

  • Understand the biology of the agent
  • Susceptibility and transmission within the host
  • Hazards associated with equipment and procedures
  • Goal:
    • Provide the highest practical protection and the lowest practical exposure

Evaluating Risk Acceptability

  • Worst case scenario -What might happen?
  • Likelihood of an event
  • Seriousness of the incident
  • Actions needed to resolve the problems

What is Acceptable Risk?

  • Since there is no such thing as “no risk”
  • “Safe” means risk has been judged acceptable
  • Judging risk is a subjective- humans make decisions
  • Measuring risk is objective- use available guidelines, data, and documentation
  • Keep records of how determinations were made due to subjective nature of the process

WHO-World Health Organization

Agents Assigned Risk Groups

  • RG-1 Unlikely to cause disease in humans or animals
    • low individual or community risk
  • RG-2 May cause disease but typically not serious
    • individual risk, low community risk, treatable
  • RG-3 May cause serious disease, usually treatable
    • High individual but low community risk, serious respiratory agents
  • RG-4 Serious or fatal, often not treatable,
    • Easy transmission, high individual and community risk

Biosafety Levels (BSL)

  • Different than the Risk Groups!!
    • Risk groups used in risk assessment
    • BSL are used in risk management
  • BSL are ways to control the agent
    • facilities, safety equipment, practices, PPE, etc.
  • Once risk is assessed then the appropriate BSL is determined

BioSafety Level 1

  • Well characterized, non-pathogenic organisms or agents
  • Open bench- no containment
  • Use good laboratory practices, waste disposal, and aseptic techniques
  • Example: E. coli K-12 strains

BioSafety Level 2

  • Agents of moderate hazard to personnel or environment
  • Basic lab, but restricted access, containment during certain processes (i.e. aerosols, large volumes, etc.)
  • Autoclave and Biological Safety Cabinet desired
  • Use good laboratory practices, waste disposal, and aseptic techniques
  • Example: most non-respiratory, non lethal, agents

BioSafety Level 3

  • Agents of high hazard to personnel or environment
  • Respiratory exotic or indigenous agents which are easily transmissible causing serious or lethal disease
  • All work is contained, engineering controls and controlled environments we currently do not have the facilities to handle.

Example: Mycobacteriumtuberculosis, SARS, etc.


BioSafety Level 4

  • Hemorrhagic fever, deadly viruses, etc.
  • Total containment, airtight labs, “submarine” doors, air pumps, water treatment, HEPA filtration, etc.
  • Positive pressure “moonsuits”

Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAI)


76% from clinical labs

8% from research labs


60% acquired from inhalation

Other exposures include:

digestion, sharps, splashes, direct and indirect contact


Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAI)


  • 16% from clinical labs
  • 70% from research labs
    • 32% from animal related activities

Biohazardous/Medical Waste

  • Waste that is potentially infectious to humans, animals or plants. It includes:
    • Medical Waste according to MMWRA
    • Regulated Waste by MIOSHA
    • Regulated Waste by CDC/NIH
michigan medical waste regulatory act mmwra
Michigan Medical Waste Regulatory Act (MMWRA)
  • Defines “medical waste”
  • Requirements for waste handling and disposal
  • Requires generators to register with DEQ and implement a Medical Waste Management Plan
michigan medical waste regulatory act mmwra19
Michigan Medical Waste Regulatory Act (MMWRA)
  • Defines “medical waste”
  • Requirements for waste handling and disposal
  • Requires generators to register with DEQ and implement a Medical Waste Management Plan
biohazardous waste management plan
Biohazardous Waste Management Plan

Must outline how generating facility complies with the MMWRA:

  • Types of wastes generated
  • Storage and disposal of wastes
  • Contingency plans
  • Training
biohazardous waste categories
Biohazardous Waste Categories

Cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals

  • laboratory waste
  • biological production waste
  • discarded live and attenuated vaccines
  • culture dishes and related materials
  • contaminated PPE
biohazardous waste categories22
Biohazardous Waste Categories

Liquid human and animal waste

  • liquid or semi-liquid blood and blood products and body fluids
  • contaminated items that would release blood or items that are caked with blood or other potentially infectious materials; NOT including urine or materials stained with blood or body fluids
  • infectious animal waste (research)
biohazardous waste categories23
Biohazardous Waste Categories

Pathological waste

  • tissues
  • body parts other than teeth
  • products of conception
  • fluids removed by trauma or during surgery or autopsy/necropsy or other medical procedure and not chemically fixed.
and more biohazardous waste categories
…And More Biohazardous Waste Categories
  • Animal and plant pathogen waste
  • Recombinant DNA waste
  • Sharps
biowaste vs trash
Biowaste vs. Trash

3 basic questions to differentiate:

  • Is it contaminated with viable biological material?
  • Can blood or other regulated body or biological fluids be released?
  • Is it a sharps hazard?

Is it contaminated with viable biological material?


  • Examples:
  • Contaminated lab waste
  • Personal protective equipment used for handling potentially infectious materials (including handling infected animals or their products)
  • Wastes from infectious disease research (carcasses, body fluids…)

Can blood or other (regulated) body fluids or viable biological materials be released?


Some Examples…

Tubes of blood

Vacuum flasks containing body fluids or cell line waste

managing liquid biohazardous waste
Managing Liquid Biohazardous Waste


  • Label and secure bulk vessels if not disposed of immediately


  • Chemical disinfection OR
  • Autoclave


  • Flush to sewer
  • Use proper PPE!


  • 10% bleach solution
    • good for general disinfection
    • High organics use 20%
    • Needs to be made weekly
    • Test contact time
  • Ethanol
    • Use 70% solution (most effective)
    • Longer contact time and flammable

*Should research and know effectiveness and contact time for the best disinfectant against your agent!




managing non sharp biohazardous waste
Managing Non-Sharp Biohazardous Waste
  • labeled container
  • lined with a biohazardous waste bag
  • equipped with a lid.
managing non sharp biohazardous waste34
Managing Non-Sharp Biohazardous Waste
  • Securely tie bags for transport to treatment/collection site.
  • When moving wastes, use secondary containment; avoid using public halls and elevators.
breakable non sharps biowaste
“Breakable” Non-sharps Biowaste

Store in labeled containersthat are puncture-resistant, closable and will capture leakage, BUT….

…Do NOT use SHARPS containers!

effective waste autoclaving
Effective Waste Autoclaving
  • Leave bag open during autoclaving or loosely closed
  • Add water to bag prior to autoclaving if primarily dry materials
  • Steam must contact materials
  • Place bag in autoclavable tray with sides
treated waste bag disposal
Treated Waste Bag Disposal
  • Allow waste bag to cool
  • Use fume hood to reduce odors
  • Securely tie bag shut
  • Place bag in a non-transparent black bag for regular disposal



Is it a sharps hazard?


  • Examples:
    • needles
    • syringes
    • scalpels
    • all biologicallycontaminated objects that can easily penetrate skin (Pasteur pipettes,razor blades, etc.)

Place sharps in approved sharps container for disposal!


…Syringes in research settings should be disposed of as a sharp to avoid public relations concerns!

sharps containers
Sharps Containers
  • Containers must be leak-proof, puncture-resistant, closable & labeled with the biohazard symbol.
  • Proper sharps containersmust be used forboth clinic andfield work.
proper use of sharps containers
Proper Use of Sharps Containers
  • Place tops on containers before use on lab bench
  • Don’t forget to date the container when first put into use
  • Remember: sharps containers are aone-way disposal system
proper use of sharps containers42
Proper Use of Sharps Containers

Use sharps containers for sharps ONLY!

  • No solid biohazardous waste (i.e. gauze, un-broken pipettes, gloves)
  • No mercurythermometers
sharps container disposal
Sharps Container Disposal
  • Containers must be permanently closed and disposed of through the animal facility manager:
    • Within 90 daysof first use
    • When ¾ full
  • Disposal methods:
    • Landfill
    • Incineration
    • We use waste hauler
safety notes on sharps use
Safety Notes on Sharps Use
  • Do not re-cap sharps
  • Keep sharps container in close proximity to point of use (i.e. limit handling) for easy disposal
  • Do not leave needles in pockets of coveralls or smocks
carcasses and body parts
Carcasses and Body Parts
  • Human tissues
    • Unfixed tissues are medical waste
    • Make waste unrecognizable!
  • Animal tissues, carcasses
    • When generated in infectious disease or recombinant DNA research, these are medical waste
  • These items must be stored in biolabeled, leakproof containers for incineration.
  • Waste service- see Audrey Brown
managing all that other waste
Managing All That Other Waste…
  • Drain bottles of non-hazardous materials before disposal in trash
  • <3% of volume is considered empty
  • Higher volumes must not be thrown in the trash
managing all that other waste48
Managing All That Other Waste…

Do NOT discard medications in the trash.

Return to source for disposal or seek assistance from your campus waste group.

See Jaime Stock!

any questions
Any Questions?

Thank You for your attention!

Thanks to Carol Stevens at CMU & Robin Mecklem at MSU for their assistance with this presentation