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Biological Safety

Introduction to Biological Research at Stony Brook University

It is the policy of Stony Brook University (SBU) to provide a safe workplace for faculty, staff, students and visitors, to protect the community and the environment.  To achieve this goal, the following biological safety web pages serve as an electronic Biosafety Manual which has been prepared for the proper handling of all biological materials and hazards.  By following the guidelines and recommendations that are indicated herein, the safety of the working environment will be improved by minimizing and/or eliminating biological hazards.  These guidelines and recommendations are intended for all individuals at SBU who may be conducting or engaged in work with biological materials that may pose a hazard to themselves, others in the laboratory, the community and the environment.

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) will assist you in your efforts to carry out this responsibility by providing information, guidance, and training in Biosafety fundamentals and regulatory affairs at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, members of EH&S work closely with various University committees that oversee research and safety at Stony Brook such as the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and the University Laboratory Safety Council (ULSC).

Biosafety Basics

Biohazardous materials are infectious agents or other biological materials that present a risk or potential risk to the health of humans, animals or the environment.

Biohazardous materials include:

  • organisms and viruses infectious to humans, animals or plants (e.g. parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi, prions, rickettsia) cultured human and animal cells
  • certain types of recombinant and/or synthetic DNA
  • biologically active agents that may cause disease in other living organisms or cause significant impact to the environment or community. (i.e. toxins, allergens, venoms)

The keys to working safely with biohazardous materials are:

  • Performing a Risk Assessment prior to beginning work with biohazardous materials or when procedures and protocols have changed for an established standard operating procedure (SOP)
  • Understanding what Risk Groups and Biosafety Levels are and the differences between them
  • Ensuring that Training Requirements have been met prior to beginning work with biohazardous materials
  • Ensuring that any required equipment has been certified and is in proper working order
  • Ensuring that any required PPE is available and that laboratory personnel are trained in it's proper use and care

Posting Biosafety Signs in appropriate locations throughout the lab and especially at any entrance to the lab

What do you need to do?

Principal Investigators and lab groups are asked to take the following actions.

  • Register your lab(s) in the Laboratory Registration System.
  • Establish and maintain laboratory-specific risk assessments, policies, and procedures, and update them as necessary to optimize effectiveness.
  • Ensure that all laboratory personnel have completed the required training prior to beginning work in the lab (Once you have registered your lab you will be able to review the training records of all personnel registered to the lab). 
    • Reinforce any new, annual or refresher training that may be necessary (Lab registration will indicate when refresher training is due).
  • Conduct an inventory of all infectious agents and toxins.
    • Properly dispose of all legacy cultures and samples.
    • Maintain a record of all infectious agents and update information in the Laboratory Registration System.
    • Mark all storage units/areas that have been inventoried with a Biosafety Stewardship Label.

Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) is continually working to review and update policies and procedures, training programs, website information and guidance documents. If you have any questions please email, or contact the Lab Safety group

Rules, Regulations & Guidelines

This is a summary of the regulatory authorities that either regulate or provide guidelines for the use of biological materials, infectious agents, and recombinant synthetic nucleic acid molecules (rsNAM):

  • Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) - Beginning in 1984, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have published a number of editions of the BMBL.  This document is a set of guidelines that describes standard and special microbiological practices, safety equipment and facilities that constitute Biosafety Levels 1-4, which are recommended for working with infectious agents in different laboratory settings.  The BMBL is considered the standard for biosafety in the United States and is the basis for most of the biosafety information included in this electronic biosafety manual.  To view the BMBL please click on the following link:

  • National Institute of Health (NIH): Guidelines on Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules - These guidelines address the safe conduct of research involving construction and manipulation of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules (rsNAM) and the organisms containing them. Included in the Guidelines is a requirement for the institution to establish an institutional Biosafety committee (IBC) with the authority to approve or disapprove proposed research using the NIH Guidelines as a minimum standard.  The Guidelines also establishes the roles and responsibilities for the NIH, SBU, the PI and all staff and students that work with rsNAM. To view the NIH Guidelines please click on the following link:

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Possession, Use, and Transfer of Select Agents and Toxins - HHS and the USDA have established a set of rules that require facilities and institutions to be registered and approved to transfer or receive certain biological agents and toxins.  HHS requires SBU to comply with the BMBL and OSHA's Laboratory Safety Standard 29 CFR1910.1450. The most current list of Select Agents and Toxins can be found on the website below:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - OSHA’s mission is to assure America’s workers have safe and healthful working conditions free from unlawful retaliation. OSHA carries out its mission by setting and enforcing standards; enforcing anti-retaliation provisions of the OSH Act and other federal whistleblower laws; providing and supporting training, outreach, education, and assistance; and ensuring state OSHA programs are at least as effective as federal OSHA, furthering a national system of worker safety and health protections.