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2016 Biosafety Audit Summary

Annual audits of the Biosafety Program are guided primarily by the Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, and National Institutes for Health publication called Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL).

The following items from the BMBL in addition to institutional and Biosafety policies and procedures impact many labs on campus and are highlighted here based on the frequency of their appearance in the 2016 Biosafety audit findings:

Aerosols:  The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2* labs states:  “Perform all procedures to minimize the creation of splashes and/or aerosols.

Aerosol exposure minimization is typically accomplished with the use of a Biosafety Cabinet (BSC) in BSL-2 labs.  For procedures carried out external to the BSC or in BSL-1 labs, see UT Knoxville’s guidance, Aerosol Production and Exposure Control.

Biohazardous waste management (non-sharps):   The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs states:  “decontaminate all cultures, stocks, and other potentially infectious materials before disposal using an effective method.

UT expands this guidance by requiring biohazardous waste be collected for final treatment and disposal in a leak-proof container lined with an autoclavable bag of moderate thickness to prevent punctures. The collection container must have a lid or other means of closure and the container must be labeled with the biohazard symbol regardless of the lab’s operating biosafety level.

Bench top containers should be used for collection of small quantities of contaminated dry goods (i.e., pipette tips, centrifuge tubes, etc.). Small plastic containers or wire bag racks lined with a biohazard bag are suitable for bench top collection. These containers do not need to have a lid (unless waste is contaminated with a pathogen) but daily disposal of the bag into a larger collection container is strongly recommended.  

Serological Pipettes – All plastic pipettes, regardless of contamination status should be segregated from other lab wastes because they readily puncture waste and trash bags which increases spill potential.

Sharps Management:   The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs is very prescriptive regarding sharps management.

Needles – Needles must not be bent, sheared, broken, recapped, removed from disposable syringes, or otherwise manipulated by hand before disposal.

Broken glass – If broken glass is biologically contaminated, it must be managed as a biohazardous sharp for disposal.  Broken glass that is not contaminated with a hazardous material should be placed in a suitable puncture-resistant container for disposal.

Eye Protection:   The BMBL for BSL-1 labs states:  “Wear protective eyewear when conducting procedures that have the potential to create splashes of microorganisms or other hazardous materials.

The BMBL for BSL-2 labs states:  “Eye and face protection (goggles, mask, face shield or other splatter guard) is used for anticipated splashes or sprays of infectious or other hazardous materials when the microorganisms must be handled outside the BSC or containment device.

Many labs with biohazards employ the practice of bleaching liquid cultures and disposing of them down the sink.  This practice should be evaluated regarding risk of exposure to splashes, splatters, or droplets of the bleached liquid.  Indirectly vented chemical splash goggles are the appropriate eye protection to mitigate or eliminate the risk.

Eyewashes:  While the BMBL does not require eyewashes for BSL-1 labs, EHS at should be consulted regarding chemical hazards that may require them.

The BMBL for BSL-2 labs states:  “An eyewash station must be readily available.”

The following bullets are important considerations for eyewash care:

    • Are eyewash stations free of obstructions and easily accessible?
    • Are eyewashes functional?
    • Is there documentation showing that the station has been flushed/tested weekly or monthly (depending on campus policy)?

Laboratory Chairs:  The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs states:  “Chairs used in laboratory work must be covered with a non-porous material that can be easily cleaned and decontaminated with appropriate disinfectant.”

The removal of chairs upholstered with absorbent fabrics should proceed over time as funding for replacement chairs allows.  This is true for labs with chemical, radiological, and biological hazards.

Surface Disinfection:  The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs states:  “Decontaminate work surfaces after completion of work and after any spill or splash of potentially infectious material with appropriate disinfectant.”

Microbiologically contaminated surfaces can serve as reservoirs of potential pathogens and they can promote fomite transmission via hand (or other direct) contact with the surface.  While hand hygiene is very important to minimize the impact of this transfer, cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces as directed by the BMBL is fundamental in reducing their potential contribution to the incidence of lab acquired infections and cross contamination.

Site specific training:  The BMBL for BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs states:  “The laboratory supervisor must ensure that laboratory personnel receive appropriate training regarding their duties, the necessary precautions to prevent exposures, and exposure evaluation procedures.  Personnel must receive annual updates or additional training when procedural or policy changes occur.”

Each person conducting work in a lab regardless of the biosafety level, should receive some level for training prior to conducting work. The Biological Safety Training page on the Biosafety Program website has resources for UT faculty, staff, and students working in laboratories on the Knoxville area campuses on a variety of topics both in person and online for your convenience.

For BSL-1 labs the minimum level of training is Standard Microbiological Practices training (SMP).  The Biological Safety Training page has links to the SMP training module, an SMP guide, and a training roster under the drop down box for Standard Microbiological Practices.  It is incumbent upon the PI to initiate this training and maintain the training records.

For BSL-2 training, the Biosafety Office has developed a new site specific training form for your use that incorporates the necessary elements of training. BSL-2 training may be taken for BSL-1 lab activities. This training is provided by the Biosafety Office and records are kept in the training database.  It is still incumbent upon the PI or lab manager to conduct the site specific training when BSL-2 training is taken to satisfy the training requirements for BSL-1 labs.

*(See Laboratory Biosafety Level Criteria for more understanding of BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs.)