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Biohazard Incidents & Emergencies

Biological Spills

The risks and hazards associated with biological spills can vary greatly depending on the nature of the biological material involved.  Some pathogens require very small quantities to potentially cause an infection.  A thorough Risk Assessment should be conducted prior to working with biologically hazardous materials to ensure that a spill can be dealt with in a safe and efficient manner.  If a biological spill is particularly dangerous, a large spill, or lab personnel are not equipped or trained to handle the spill please call University Police (X-333 or 631-632-3333) and / or EH&S (2-6410 or 631-632-6410) for assistance.

For Spills Inside of a Biological Safety Cabinet

  • Leave the BSC running.
  • Wipe down all interior BSC surfaces and items within the cabinet with the appropriate disinfectant.
  • If the spill has gone beyond the work surface (i.e. grilles or inside the seams) and the BSC has a catch basin, flood the basin with the appropriate disinfectant.  Drain the basin and clean the basin after 30 minutes.  Remember to close the valve to the BSCs catch basin when decontamination has been completed.

For Spills Outside of a Biological Safety Cabinet

  • Alert people in immediate area of the spill.
  • If you do not have the proper materials, or need assistance, call x333 (campus phone) or (631) 632-3333 (cell phone)
  • Put on protective clothing/PPE: closed lab coat, disposable gloves (double glove), disposable shoe covers, safety goggles, face shield, or respirator, as necessary.
  • Cover spill with paper towels or other absorbent materials beginning at the edges of the spill and working toward the center of the spill.
  • Pour a freshly prepared solution of disinfectant appropriate for the agent, (typically 10% dilution of bleach) around the edges of the spill, working your way to the center. Avoid splashing or creating aerosols when pouring the disinfectant.
  • Allow appropriate amount of time for the disinfectant to inactivate the material (i.e. 30 minutes for 10% bleach). Place any disposable protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves into Regulated Medical Waste (Red Bag). Disinfect any reusable PPE before reuse.
  • Once disinfectant has had time to work, replace any missing PPE and then use paper towels to wipe up the spill, working from the edges into the center. Dispose of in a Red Bag.
  • Soak fresh towels with disinfectant and wipe up spill.
  • Place used paper towels and disposable protective clothing/PPE in Red Bag and dispose of as regulated medical waste.
  • Be sure to thoroughly wash hands after decontamination.

BSL 3 labs should respond as per their site specific Biosafety Manual.


Exposures to biologically hazardous materials can occur in a variety of ways.  These could include needle sticks, cuts, punctures, inhalation, accidental ingestion and splashes to the mucus membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth, and nose).

For Needlesticks and Small cuts

  • Encourage needlesticks and small cuts to bleed.  Gently wash with soap and water for 5-10 minutes.
  • Seek medical attention immediately after to determine if further actions are necessary.

For Splashes

  • Flush splashes to nose, mouth and eyes with clean water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Seek medical attention immediately after to determine if further actions are necessary.

Call University Police (X-333 or 631-632-3333) and / or seek medical attention following exposure. In addition, report exposures to your supervisor as soon as possible. It is important to remember that many potential biological infections may not result in symptoms for a period of days, weeks, or months following an exposure.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended to seek medical attention immediately after a potential exposure even if you are not feeling symptoms.


A thorough Risk Assessment of biohazardous agents should be performed prior to beginning work with agents or the possibility that you may be exposed to them.  The Risk Assessment should include information such as potential signs and symptoms of the illness associated with the specific agents worked with or exposed to. If you are experiencing possible signs and symptoms associated with biohazardous agents present in the laboratory please seek medical attention immediately.  In addition, notify your laboratory supervisor as soon as possible.