Safety Protocols in Cleaning and Decontaminating Biohazardous Material

Ever wondered what it takes to keep a laboratory safe from biohazardous materials? If you’ve watched any sci-fi movie or crime procedural, you’ve probably seen characters donning protective gear and meticulously scrubbing down surfaces. But there’s so much more to it than that! This blog post will dive into the nitty-gritty of safety protocols in cleaning and decontaminating biohazardous material, and how to ensure a safe working environment in labs.

We’ll be covering everything from understanding what biohazardous materials are and the dangers they pose, to the proper ways to handle, clean, and dispose of them. We’ll also discuss the importance of regular training and education for laboratory staff and students, and provide valuable resources for further information. So gear up and let’s dive into the fascinating world of biohazard safety!

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Understanding Biohazardous Material

Biohazardous materials can be a real party crasher, especially if you’re a scientist or lab technician. These materials contain potentially infectious agents, and you definitely don’t want to play around with them. In fact, exposure to disinfectants used on biohazardous materials has been linked to occupational issues such as:

  • Cancer
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Dermatitis
  • Asthma

And don’t even get us started on contaminated clothing!

Imagine being in a Biomedical Sciences laboratory, surrounded by blood, body fluids, and other organic materials on every piece of laboratory equipment. Sounds like a horror movie, right? But fear not, because universal precautions are here to save the day! These precautions treat all blood, body fluids, synthetic nucleic acid molecules, and other potentially infected materials (OPIM) as if they were crawling with blood borne pathogens like HIV and HBV.

Having understood what we’re dealing with, we can now delve into the decontamination process. Picture a decontamination line, where each step is performed at a different station to avoid cross-contamination. This orderly process is essential in reducing contamination from organic materials and maintaining a safe lab environment.

Biohazardous materials aren’t just limited to liquids, though. Think about the countless biohazardous waste containers scattered throughout a lab, each containing different types of waste, such as sharps, liquid infectious waste, or even contaminated clothing. A safe laboratory environment heavily relies on the appropriate handling and disposal of these waste containers, considering the various materials present.

Safety Measures for Handling Biohazardous Material

In the realm of biohazardous materials, safety is always the top priority. Proper personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering controls, and safe work practices are essential to minimize exposure and maintain a safe working environment. PPE makes sure employees stay safe while working. It includes items such as:

  • Gloves
  • Lab coats
  • Face shields
  • Goggles
  • Masks
  • Vests

Before donning your PPE, ensure it is free from tears or holes that could potentially let in waste. And remember, bleach might be a handy disinfectant, but it can also produce toxic chlorine gas when mixed with other chemicals, so use caution.

Engineering controls are designed to prevent exposure and hazards by using equipment and supplies specifically suited for laboratory work. Some examples include biological safety cabinets, hard sided sharps containers, and safe needle devices. These controls help keep pesky infectious agents at bay and ensure a secure working environment.

Worker protection heavily depends on the adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and following the proper decontamination procedure. Here are some important steps to follow:

  1. Wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  2. Tuck in gloves and boots to prevent any exposure.
  3. Use all fasteners properly to ensure safety.
  4. Use chemical disinfectants for decontamination.
  5. If you’re wondering about autoclaves, be cautious as they can be hazardous due to their high heat and pressure.
  6. Consider using quaternary ammonium compounds as an alternative disinfectant.

Managing Biohazardous Waste

Having discussed the cleaning and decontamination of biohazardous materials, it’s time to delve into proper waste management procedures. Biohazardous waste containers come in various shapes and sizes, such as Needle Disposal (small hard-sided red container), Biohazardous Sharps Waste (large hard-sided red container), and Biohazard Bag (red or orange bag). These containers need to be sturdy, waterproof, and properly labeled. The maximum size for biohazardous waste containers is 15-gallons (57-L). Before lining a container with an orange biohazard bag, be sure to crisscross the biohazard symbol with heat-sensitive autoclave tape.

To dispose of Pasteur glass and plastic pipettes, follow these steps:

  1. Line a puncture-resistant container with an orange autoclave bag marked with a heat-sensitive autoclave tape “x” over the biohazard symbol.
  2. Place the biohazard bag inside a white Brute container.
  3. Mark the container with heat-sensitive tape as an indicator that the waste is ready for disposal in the dumpster.
  4. Alert housekeeping about the disposal through these indications.
  5. Regularly remove the biohazard waste containers for autoclaving.
  6. Empty the containers when they reach 2/3 of their capacity.
  7. Dispose of animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding that have been in contact with infectious agents by incineration to prevent the spread of any potential infection.

Containers of sharps exposed to biohazardous materials can be placed in an orange autoclavable bag marked with an “x” over the biohazard symbol, autoclaved, and then disposed of with regular trash. Drosophila waste should be labeled as ethanol, isopropanol, or mineral oil waste and discarded using the online hazardous waste pick-up program through EHS. And remember, never dispose of biohazardous waste in Hazardous Waste Carboys, the Hazardous Waste Accumulation Area, Broken Glassware boxes, or your regular trash.

Responding to Spills and Accidents

Even in the most controlled laboratory environments, accidents are inevitable. Knowing how to respond effectively is crucial when biohazardous spills and accidents occur. First and foremost, use appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and face masks.

Cleaning up spills involves using a bleach and water solution in a 1:9 ratio, while adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions for decontamination protocols in the lab. Should an incident involving biohazardous material occur, alerting the relevant authorities ensures proper containment, documentation, and follow-up.

Training and Education

The importance of regular training and education for laboratory staff and students in maintaining a safe working environment cannot be overstated. This ensures that everyone is up-to-date on biohazard safety protocols, proper handling of biohazardous materials, and appropriate response measures in case of accidents or spills.

Before working independently in BMS Teaching labs, staff and students must obtain the Biohazard Safety in the BMS Laboratory Training Certificate/Annual Review Form. All personnel should be well-versed in the Standard Operating Procedures for minimizing contact and maximizing worker protection. These procedures should be enforced strongly to ensure safety throughout the operations.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog post, from understanding bhazardous materials and their potential risks, to the proper ways to handle, clean, and dispose of them. We’ve also emphasized the importance of regular training and education for laboratory staff and students, as well as providing valuable resources for further information.

By adhering to these safety protocols and procedures, we can ensure that our laboratories remain safe and productive environments for everyone involved. So, the next time you encounter biohazardous material, you’ll be well-equipped to handle it with confidence and expertise.

Stay safe, stay informed, and keep pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the procedure for decontaminating equipment?

Decontaminating equipment from gross contamination requires physical decontamination methods such as abrasive and non-abrasive scrubbing, air blasting, and high-pressure water cleaning. Additionally, contaminants can be removed by rinsing or wiping off, or through evaporation.

What are the 3 steps of decontamination process?

The 3 steps of decontamination process are cleaning, disinfection and sterilization – all aimed at removing or inactivating contaminants from an area.

What solution should be used if you are decontaminating something that is contaminated with oil?

For decontaminating something that is contaminated with oil, solvents such as hexane should be used. Extra PPE like a face shield, respirator, and splash protection may be necessary while mixing decon solutions. Bleach may also be required for biological decontamination.

What are the key differences between sterilization, disinfection, and decontamination?

Sterilization eliminates all microorganisms, including spores and viruses, while disinfection targets just pathogens. Decontamination involves reducing levels of contamination using chemical disinfectants or physical techniques.

How should I dispose of biohazardous waste?

To properly dispose of biohazardous waste, use designated containers, label them correctly, and follow the appropriate disposal guidelines. Never throw biohazardous waste in regular trash or hazardous waste areas.