National Biosafety Month Puts Focus on Best Practices

Oct. 2, 2017

October is National Biosafety Month, an annual initiative from the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Policy.

The NIH and the University’s Environmental Health and Safety office encourage you to promote biosafety in the lab by focusing on the following.

IBC Documentation

Review your lab’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) registration and approval documentation. All research with the following materials must be registered with and approved by the IBC: 

  • pathogenic organisms and viruses,
  • biological toxins,
  • animal tissues that pose zoonotic disease risks,
  • human and non-human primate derived materials, and  
  • recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules subject to the NIH Guidelines.

Contact the Biosafety Officer,, if you have questions about the need to register material handled in your lab. 


Use SHIELD, the University’s Safety Health Inspection and Equipment Logistics Database to verify that employees, students and faculty have completed the appropriate training classes, including:

  • Intro to Biosafety: required for staff, faculty and students who conduct research with materials that require biosafety level 2 containment; and recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules that are not exempt from the NIH Guidelines;
  • Bloodborne Pathogens for Researchers: annual training required for staff, faculty and students who conduct research with human-derived materials. 

Use of Sharps

Minimize, when appropriate, use of sharps. The EHS website has information on using sharps safety; the ISIPS publishes a list of safe sharps devices

Update Inventory

Maintain a current inventory of all infectious agents and toxins stored in freezers, refrigerator and cryotanks.

Hand Washing

Did you know that one of the simplest ways to prevent a laboratory-acquired infection is also the most effective? Hand washing, when conducted properly, can prevent microbiological agents from contaminating you and the surrounding environment.

  • According to the CDC, hand, wrist and surface contamination in laboratories is common. Large diameter droplets created by common laboratory operations settle out of the air rapidly, contaminating gloved hands and work surfaces.
  • Hand-to-face contact is common in a laboratory. 
  • Although glove use in a laboratory is important, it is NOT a substitute for cleaning your hands. Contamination can occur during glove removal and may result in transmission of pathogens from your hands to your mucous membranes, causing infection, or contamination of nearby surfaces, posing a risk to others in the lab.
  • Frequent hand washing is recommended for all researchers working with biohazardous materials. When using soap and water, hands should be washed for at least 15 seconds. Remove jewelry and make sure you clean all areas of your hands. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet.

Do you have the appropriate facilities in your lab to wash your hands? Let us know what you think.