ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




All body fluids received in a laboratory for testing, unless accompanied by documentation to the contrary, should be regarded as a potential hazard.22 26

Essential precautions in handling body fluids are as follows:

  • use a pathogen handling cabinet
  • wear protective clothing - a long sleeved laboratory coat or gown and rubber gloves as a minimum standard if a pathogen handling cabinet is used
  • if a pathogen handling cabinet is not available for use also wear safety goggles and a face mask
  • cover open cuts.
  • avoid splashes
  • use a sealed centrifuge if centrifugation is required
  • clean up spills.
  • disinfect spill areas
  • warn others of any spills
  • wash hands thoroughly after handling body fluids and before leaving the laboratory
  • remove laboratory coats before leaving the laboratory
  • discard soiled or contaminated laboratory coats for clean coats
  • never eat, drink or smoke in the laboratory
  • remove rubber gloves before answering the telephone or performing intermediate tasks

If breakages occur in the centrifuge, the whole bucket assembly should be capable of autoclaving. The lid should not be removed until the spill has been decontaminated (see centrifuging). Sodium hypochlorite, 1% aqueous, is suitable for deactivating bacteria and virus particles including HIV and hepatitis B. However, sodium hypochlorite is an oxidising agent and a corrosive and may damage some metal parts. Discard specimen containers and centrifuge tubes into lidded buckets or wet bags for autoclaving before disposal.



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