Biosafety FAQs


Biological/Biomedical Waste

What types of waste require inactivation prior to disposal?

All laboratory waste containing infectious, potentially infectious, or recombinant DNA waste must be inactivated prior to disposal. This includes the following:

  • Human and primate blood, blood products, body fluids, tissues, cells, and other potentially infectious material (OPIM)
  • Human, animal, and plant pathogens,
  • Recombinant/genetically-modified organisms, vectors, and plasmids
  • Any material containing or contaminated with any of the above (e.g. test tubes, flasks, pipet tips, syringes, needles, culture dishes)
  • See Biological Waste Disposal Guidelines for more information.

Who is responsible for purchasing biohazard bags?

The laboratory is responsible for purchasing red biohazard bags.

Where do I get autoclavable biohazard bags?

Fisher catalog #01-828E or VWR catalog #14220-098. These and other size bags are available through myUFMarket. For additional information contact the Sales Representative for each vendor.

Is Stericycle responsible for providing autoclavable biohazard bags?

Stericycle provides liner bags for the Biohazard Boxes. These liner bags should not be used as autoclave bags (see above), but rather should be used as a liner to the biohazard box for final disposal of the autoclaved red bags. For additional information see the handout Packaging and Disposal of Biological Waste on the Biosafety Office Website.

How do I obtain Biohazard Boxes, Liner Bags and Sharps containers?

  • Within HSC, delivered via PPD building services to locations within the HSC complex (or call building services at 294-5500 for assistance)
  • Outside HSC, picked up from AG-133 (HSC Loading dock; call 392-5775 to make arrangements)

How do I dispose of Biohazard Boxes and Sharps containers?

  • Within HSC, picked up by PPD building services at locations within the HSC complex.
  • Outside of HSC, for facilities that do not have a Stericycle pickup these must be dropped off by the user by appointment only (call 294-5500 to make arrangements for a drop-off appointment).

My laboratory is not part of the HSC. What is the procedure for transporting Biomedical Waste to the loading dock of the HSC for disposal?

A state vehicle is required for transport, not a personal vehicle. One must move less than 25 lbs. at a time (i.e. 1 box). The locked silver semi-trailer at the loading dock of the HSC is the disposal site. Call Building Services at 294-5500 to arrange to meet someone with the keys. The usual meeting site is AG-129, ground floor of the Dental Sciences Bldg. If needed, leave a voice mail message and someone will return your call. Be prepared to show your photo ID.

What is a biological spill kit and do I need one?

Advance preparation for management of a biological spill is essential. A biological spill kit can easily be assembled using items that should already be available in the lab. A complete biological spill kit consists of:

  • Dust pan & scoop or tongs for broken glass/sharps
  • Paper towels or other absorbent material
  • Concentrated household bleach
  • Several pairs of latex or nitrile gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Biohazardous waste (autoclave) bags

These items should be placed in a labeled box or bucket and kept in areas where biohazards are used (and kept separate from the required chemical spill kit). All labs working with infectious/potentially infectious material or recombinant DNA should have a biological spill kit assembled. Spill handling procedures should be posted in the lab and all individuals should know how to properly clean a spill. For problematic spills (large spills, high hazard spills), call the Biosafety Office at 392-1591.

What type of disinfectant should I use?

When considering which disinfectant to use, you need to ensure that the disinfectant you choose is effective against the organism(s) you are trying to kill. Additionally, you should consider the surface or item that needs to be disinfected, corrosive nature or other hazards associated with the disinfectant and its ease of use. The Biosafety Office recommends a freshly-diluted (within 24 hrs) bleach solution for routine surface disinfection as bleach is effective, low cost, readily available, and may be disposed down the drain after use. If you do not wish to use bleach, choose another EPA-listed tuberculocidal disinfectant and follow manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate concentrations and contact times to be used and for disposal requirements. Please note that aqueous alcohol solutions (e.g. 70% ethanol) are not appropriate for surface decontamination as these solutions evaporate too quickly to achieve the necessary contact time (10 minutes).

What is the shelf-life of undiluted bleach?

Undiluted household bleach stored at room temperature (~70°F) in the original container maintains its label strength active level for approximately 6 months after the manufacturing date before starting to degrade into salt and water. The hotter the temperature the bottle is stored at, the faster the decomposition. For this reason, it is important to date your bleach containers when you receive them. You should also periodically replace the bleach in your biological spill kit to be sure that you are using the bleach at label strength which is required for EPA registered disinfectant use.


Biosafety Cabinets/Equipment

How often should our biosafety cabinet (BSC) be certified?

BSCs must be certified at the time of installation and annually thereafter. They should also be certified anytime they have been moved and after some repairs (HEPA filter replaced, maintenance to internal parts).

Why aren’t Bunsen burners or open flames permitted inside the BSC?

The use of open flames, flammable gases, and flammable liquids inside a BSC:

  • Disrupts the air flow, compromising protection of both the worker and the work
  • Causes excessive heat buildup which may damage HEPA filters and/or melt the adhesive holding the filter together, thus compromising the cabinet’s integrity
  • Presents a potential fire or explosion hazard. Electrical components such as the BSC fan motor, lights and electrical outlets are not designed to operate in flammable atmospheres, where a flash fire could be ignited by a spark. A majority of BSCs, recirculate 30-70% of the air in the cabinet through a HEPA filter; gas leaking in the cabinet from a faulty connection or burner can quickly build to explosive levels due to this recirculation process.
  • Inactivates manufacturer’s warranties on the cabinet: cabinet manufacturers will assume no liability in the event of fire, explosion or worker exposure due to the use of a flammable gas in the cabinet. Additionally, the UL approval will automatically be void.

Alternatives to Bunsen burners and open flames include:

  • Alternative technology such as electric incinerators, glass bead sterilizers
  • Disposable loops, spreaders, and other instruments
  • Pre-sterilized packs of instruments such as tweezers, scissors and scalpels

If it is deemed absolutely necessary for the work being done, a small alcohol burner containing only enough alcohol for one day’s work, or a touch-plate microburner, providing a flame on demand (e.g. Touch-O-Matic) may be used.

Doesn’t the UV light in my BSC disinfect everything?

The CDC, NIH and National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) all agree that UV lights are neither recommended nor required in BSCs. In order to be effective, UV lamps must be cleaned weekly to remove dirt and dust and should be checked periodically (approximately every 6 months) with a meter to ensure the appropriate intensity of UV light is being emitted for germicidal activity. UV lights must be turned off when the room is occupied to protect eyes and skin from UV exposure which is implicated in both skin cancer and cataracts in humans.

What do I need to do if I have equipment that needs to be moved, repaired, or disposed?

Any equipment that has been used to store or handle biohazardous material (incubators, BSCs, freezers, centrifuges, etc.) must be decontaminated prior to being moved, repaired, or disposed of. Fill out the decontamination form and then send the completed form to the Biosafety Office. Please note that all BSCs must be gas decontaminated before being repaired or relocated; contact Precision Air at 352-332-4653 to arrange for this to be done. If the BSC will be put back into use after it is decontaminated, it must be recertified. Additional approvals will be required for equipment used for or contaminated with radioactive materials (call Radiation Control at 392-7359) or chemicals (call Lab Safety at 392-1591 or Hazardous Materials at 392-8400).


Biosafety Inspections

I just had an inspection…why are you coming again?

The Lab Safety Office conducts annual inspections of all labs on campus to assess chemical and physical hazards and will review the lab’s chemical inventory, Chemical Hygiene plan, MSDS sheets, etc. The Biosafety Office conducts inspections to ensure compliance with NIH and CDC guidelines for work involving biohazardous materials and recombinant DNA. If you have an active, non-exempt Recombinant DNA, Biological Agent, or Acute Toxin registration your lab will require an annual biosafety inspection (some labs are inspected more frequently). Biosafety inspections focus on safe work practices, proper use and maintenance of safety equipment, proper disposal of biological waste, etc. Therefore, many labs on campus will have both an annual Lab Safety and Biosafety inspection.

Do I need to be present during the inspection?

Yes, either the PI or another laboratory representative should accompany the biosafety officer during the inspection to answer any questions, provide access to rooms, etc.

How can I prepare for the biosafety inspection?

Be sure all laboratory personnel have completed required training and are familiar with policies and practices for the safe use and disposal of biological materials (e.g. human, animal, and plant pathogens, recombinant DNA, biological toxins). Inspection checklists are aligned with the requirements set forth in the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA, and UF policies.

What happens after the inspection is finished?

The biosafety officer will review any problems that were noted during the inspection with the person that is accompanying them. Additionally, the problems noted and the appropriate corrective action will be sent to the PI via campus mail (this letter may also be emailed to the individual present at the inspection if different from the PI). It is expected that all items in the letter will be addressed and corrected within the time frame indicated on the letter. If necessary, we may schedule a follow-up visit to verify that problems noted have been corrected.

Why do we have to keep our laboratory doors closed?

There are numerous reasons that doors to labs should be closed:

  • Work at all biosafety levels requires limited or restricted access to the lab when work is in progress.
  • Most laboratories are designed to be under negative pressure to surrounding rooms and corridors (air flows into the lab) and building ventilation systems are balanced when doors and windows are closed. Keeping doors open causes the pressure differential to drop and makes the directional airflow negligible and easily disturbed.
  • Closed doors help contain chemical vapors and aerosolized infectious agents and confine flames and smoke.
  • Closed doors help deter thieves.