Chapter 15: Safe Handling of Biological Hazards
This chapter is an overview of the requirements for working with biological hazards. You can find more detailed information about working with biological hazards in the UNC Exposure Control Plan (Bloodborne Pathogens), the UNC Biological Safety Manual and on our website.
The following cells and tissue must be registered with EHS and handled at BSL2.
- Human and non-human primate primary cells, established cell lines, and unfixed tissue
- Cell lines exposed to or transformed by a human or primate oncogenic virus
- Cells, cell lines or tissue infected with pathogens requiring BSL2 containment.
Workers at BSL-2 are required to complete the online BSL-2 training prior to beginning work at BSL-2.
Lab workers expected to handle human or non-human primate material (including well established human cell lines) in the lab or by treating lab waste are also required to complete the online Bloodborne Pathogens training annually.
Lab workers at enhanced BSL-2 or at BSL-3 receive classroom instruction and emergency drills by EHS at least annually. Lab access will not be granted to laboratory employees until all of the required training is completed.
Laboratories in which employees handle biosafety level 2 (including laboratories handling human blood, OPIM and human cell lines) or biosafety level 3 agents, must be posted with the Universal Biohazard Sign and the Principal Investigator’s name and contact information. The lab entrance signage system can be used or a separate BSL2 door placard may be generated.
In addition to being offered recommended vaccines, lab workers may have baseline serum samples collected as appropriate and tests for agents handled in the lab (e.g. TB skin test).
Employees are to report all incidents to the UEOHC. To ensure prompt attention, University employees are to call:
- During daytime hours (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., M-F): Call the UEOHC, 919-966-9119, for consultation and assessment.
- For exposures to human blood or needle sticks after-hours call Healthlink, 919-966-7890, for consultation and assessment.
The employee’s supervisor must complete a Form 19, “Employer’s Report of Injury to Employee” directly following the incident. EHS will investigate the circumstances of the exposure incident, and make a report with recommendations to avoid further exposure incidents. As with all injuries, the employee must complete an Employee Accident Report Form, and the supervisor must complete a Supervisor Accident Report Form.
All biohazard waste generated in UNC-CH research laboratories will be properly treated and tagged prior to its transfer and final burial in the landfill. This biohazard waste includes:
- Materials contaminated or potentially contaminated during the manipulation or clean-up of material generated during research and/or teaching activities requiring biosafety level 1, 2, or 3 or animal or plant biosafety level 1, 2, or 3. Refer to your laboratory’s Biological Hazards Registration section of the Laboratory Safety Plan (Schedule F) to identify these materials in your lab.
- Human liquid blood and body fluids.
- Human tissue and anatomical remains.
- Materials contaminated with human tissue or tissue cultures (primary and established) because these are handled at BSL-2.
- Animal carcasses, body parts, blood, fluids and bedding from animals infected with BSL2 and BSL3 agents.
Weekly testing with indicators that contain an average bacterial spore population of 104 to 106 (e.g. Bacillus stearothermophilus) meet the requirements of the North Carolina Medical Waste Rules. An example of a proper protocol for handling and treating biohazard waste at UNC follows:
- Safety First: Ensure BSL-2 Training, BBP training, and Hepatitis B vaccination are completed.
- Minimum protective apparel for operating the autoclave is a lab coat, safety glasses, gloves, and closed-toed shoes.
- Ensure biohazard waste is disposed of in an orange autoclavable bag.
- Place autoclave tape “X” over biohazard symbol.
- Always leave the bag open in the autoclave (to allow steam penetration).
- Always use a leak-proof secondary container in the autoclave.
- Secure the indicator to the end of a string, paper, or serological pipette to aid retrieval.
- Carefully place the indicator in the densest portion of the biohazard waste load.
- Run the autoclave cycle as usual and log the cycle parameters and indicator lot number.
- Carefully remove the indicator from the waste, and incubate with a control indicator.
- Document the results on the weekly log form.
- A positive result on the indicator requires the autoclave be posted as “NO USE” and EHS contacted and/or repairs initiated.
Waste does not need to be held until the indicator grows out. However, once the result is positive, the autoclave may not be used and must be reported.
For more information on proper collection and treatment of biohazard waste, refer to the UNC Biological Waste Disposal Policy.