Biological Spill


Notes & Precautions

Biological spills outside biological-safety cabinets will generate aerosols that can be dispersed in the air throughout the laboratory. Appropriate protective equipment is particularly important in decontaminating spills involving microorganisms. This equipment includes a lab coat with long sleeves, back-fastening gown or liquid-barrier coveralls, disposable gloves, disposable shoe covers, and safety goggles and mask or full face shield. Use of this equipment will prevent contact with contaminated surfaces and protect eyes and mucous membranes from exposure to splattered materials. Consult the Pitt Biosafety Manual for additional information.

A minor biological spill is one that the laboratory staff is capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency personnel. All other biological spills are considered major. Minor biological spills involve:

  • BSL1 materials or releases of a small volume of material inside a biological safety cabinet or other primary containment device. 

A major biological spill is one that requires assistance of safety and emergency personnel. Major biological spills involve:

  • Releases of BSL2 or higher materials outside of a biological safety cabinet, or spills of such materials that involve excessive splashing or aerosol formation.

Minor Biological Spills

  • Alert people in the area of the spill to evacuate.
  • Remove and disinfect any material that has been splashed on you and remove/disinfect grossly contaminated clothing.
  • Secure the affected area and post biohazard-warning signs.
  • Assess the situation and don the appropriate personal protective equipment for the cleanup operation.
  • Spill Cleanup Procedure:
    • Cover the spill with paper towels or other absorbent material to absorb the spill and prevent further aerosolization.
    • Pour disinfectant gently over the covered spill, working from the outside inwards.
    • Wait at least 15 minutes for the disinfectant to penetrate through the contained spill and achieve the required contact time for disinfection.
    • Using the appropriate tools (i.e., shovels, forceps), remove the absorbent material and place it in a biohazard bag for autoclaving and subsequent disposal.
  • Repeat Spill Cleanup Procedure over the original spill area to ensure disinfection and cleanup.
  • Notify your supervisor and Department of Environmental Health and Safety (biosafety officer) at 412-624-9505 of the incident.

Major Biological Spill

  • Alert people in the area of the spill to evacuate and eliminate entrance of additional personnel via notification or posting of area.
  • If any material has been splashed on you, if you have been exposed to the agent, or if any of your personal protective equipment has been breached, follow the Procedure for Exposure to Potentially Infectious Material.
  • Remove and disinfect any contaminated clothing.
  • Notify your supervisor and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at 412-624-9505 of the incident.
  • If the situation involves an imminently life-threatening injury or a release outside the building; or has other catastrophic potential, call 412-624-2121.
  • Have persons knowledgeable of incident and laboratory available to assist EH&S and/or emergency personnel.