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Environmental Health and Safety

Biological Hazards

These procedures apply to all University faculty, staff, student employees and other students that have a laboratory spill or exposure incident involving a potentially infectious biological material. An exposure incident means a specific eye, mouth, other mucous membrane, non-intact skin, parenteral contact (e.g. needle stick) or inhalation of aerosols involving a potentially infectious material that results from the performance of an employee's duties. A potentially infectious material or biological hazard may include an incident involving a microorganism (e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites), human-derived material, biological toxin or an incident involving recombinant DNA research.

Biological Spill Clean-up

It is important for laboratory personnel to have the appropriate materials and follow proper procedures for the clean up of spills involving biological hazards.

USC Materials & Procedures for Biological Spill Clean-up [pdf]

USC Biological Spill Clean Up Demonstration (5 min. video)

Exposure to a Potentially Infectious Material

  1. Stop work and immediately wash or flush the exposed area with soap and water for 10 minutes. If exposure is to the eyes, flush eyes (holding open) using the eyewash station for 10 minutes.
  2. Follow steps outlined in the USC Workers’ Compensation Guidance for Work Related Accidents or Injuries.
  3. Complete and submit the USC Laboratory Incident Report Form [docx] to the Biological Safety Officer (BSO) at as soon as possible.

Note: The exposed employee and/or their supervisor should provide the healthcare professional evaluating the exposure incident with a description of the job duties relevant to the exposure incident, route(s) of exposure, circumstances of exposure, biological agent or hazard involved in the incident (e.g. HIV+ blood, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, lentiviral vector) and relevant medical records.

Reporting Requirements for Recombinant DNA Research

The NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines) states that "...any significant problems, violations of the NIH Guidelines or any significant research-related accidents and illnesses" must be reported to the NIH Office of Science Policy (OSP) within 30 days. Certain types of accidents must be reported on a more expedited basis. Spills or accidents in BL2 laboratories resulting in an overt exposure must be immediately reported to the NIH OSP.

Any spill or accident involving recombinant DNA research of the nature described above or that otherwise leads to personal injury or illness or to a breach of containment must be reported to the NIH OSP. These kinds of events might include skin punctures with needles containing recombinant DNA, the escape or improper disposition of a transgenic animal or spills of high-risk recombinant materials occurring outside of a biosafety cabinet. Failure to adhere to the containment and biosafety practices articulated in the NIH Guidelines must also be reported to the NIH OSP. Minor spills of low-risk agents not involving a breach of containment that were properly cleaned and decontaminated generally do not need to be reported.

All incidents must be reported by emailing a completed copy of the Template for Reporting Incidents Subject to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules [pdf] to:

For incidents in BL2 labs resulting in an overt exposure that must be immediately reported to the NIH OSP, the Principal Investigator must submit the incident report as soon as possible to the BSO and IBC with adequate information to understand the nature and consequences of the incident, as well as its cause. Following the initial reporting, a more detailed report can be provided to the NIH OSP that includes the measures taken in response to mitigate the problem and to preclude its reoccurrence.

Laboratory Accident or Injury Resources


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