Biological Exposure Incidents

Accidental exposure

If an exposure or injury occurs during work hours and it is not a medical emergency, personnel should go to the Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC) located at 480 Oak Road. After hours and on weekends personnel should go to the Stanford Hospital Emergency Department. Detailed information is available on the SUOHC division page.

For any Exposure Incident, the following steps shall be taken:

  • Care for personnel –
    • If medical attention is needed, go to the Stanford University Occupational Health Clinic (non-life threatening incidents) or to the Stanford Hospital Emergency Department for medical emergencies or after hours
    • If there has been a needlestick/puncture, wash the affected area with antiseptic soap and warm water for 15 minutes
    • For a mucous membrane exposure, flush the affected area for 15 minutes using an eyewash
  • If a spill has occurred, contain and initiate clean up (see below)
  • Notify PI, manager or supervisor to initiate accident or exposure incident report
  • Notify Biosafety (650) 725-1473 of incident. After hours call (650) 723-0448 and leave a message.

Reporting form: if an accident involving a sharps occurs with potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens, complete an SU-17 Incident Investigation Report.

Sharps Injury log: If a sharps was involved, you will also need a Sharps Injury Report


The following procedures are provided as a guideline to biohazardous spill cleanup. If the spill is considered too large or too dangerous for laboratory personnel to safely clean up, secure the entire laboratory and call EH&S (650) 723-0448 immediately for assistance.

Bleach is recommended as a standard disinfectant, however, other disinfectants may be used provided they are effective against the particular agents, along with the appropriate dilution and contact time.

Inside the Biosafety Cabinet

  • Wait at least five minutes to allow the BSC to contain aerosols
  • Wear laboratory coat, safety glasses and gloves during cleanup
  • Allow BSC to run during cleanup
  • Apply disinfectant and allow a minimum of 20 minutes contact time
  • Wipe up spillage with disposable disinfectant-soaked paper towels
  • Do not place your head in the cabinet to clean the spill; keep your face behind the viewscreen
  • Wipe the walls, work surfaces, walls, and any equipment in the cabinet with disinfectant-soaked paper towels
  • Discard contaminated disposable materials using appropriate biohazardous waste disposal procedures
  • Place contaminated reusable items in biohazard bags or autoclavable pans with lids before autoclaving
  • Expose non-autoclavable materials to disinfectant (20 minutes contact time) before removal from the BSC
  • Remove protective clothing used during cleanup and place in a biohazard bag for removal
  • Run BSC 10 minutes after cleanup before resuming work or turning BSC off;

If the spill overflows the drain pan/catch basin under the work surface into the interior of the BSC notify EH&S. A more extensive decontamination of the BSC may be required.

In the laboratory, outside of the Biosafety Cabinet

  • Evacuate Room – insure all personnel are accounted for and that doors are closed. Put notice on door informing personnel of spill and not to enter. Allow spill to settle (30 min).
  • Assemble clean-up materials (disinfectant, paper towels, biohazard bags and forceps
  • Put on appropriate PPE, including lab coat, shoe covers, gloves and eye/face protection
  • Initiate cleanup with disinfectant as follows:
  • Place paper towels or other absorbent material over spill area
  • Carefully pour disinfectant around the edges of the spill and then onto the paper towels. Avoid splashing or generating aerosol droplets.
  • Allow disinfectant to remain in contact with spill for at least 20 minutes
  • Apply more paper towels to wipe up spill
  • Clean spill area with fresh towels soaked in disinfectant
  • Dispose of all towels or absorbent materials using appropriate biohazardous waste disposal procedures. If any sharp objects are present, use forceps and discard in a sharps container.
  • Remove protective clothing and segregate for disposal or cleaning
  • Wash hands with soap prior to leaving area

Inside a centrifuge

  • Clear area of all personnel
  • Wait 30 minutes for aerosol to settle before attempting to cleanup spill
  • If a spill is identified after the centrifuge lid is opened, carefully close the lid, evacuate the laboratory and close the laboratory door. Remain out of laboratory for at least 30 minutes. Put notice on door informing personnel of spill and not to enter.
  • Wear a laboratory coat, safety glasses and gloves during cleanup
  • Remove rotors and buckets to nearest BSC for cleanup
  • Thoroughly disinfect inside of centrifuge
  • Discard contaminated disposable materials using appropriate biohazardous waste disposal procedures

Outside the laboratory

  • To prevent a spill, transport labeled biohazardous material in an unbreakable, well-sealed primary container placed inside of a second unbreakable, lidded container (cooler, plastic pan or pail) labeled with the biohazard symbol
  • Should a spill occur in a public area, do not attempt to clean it up without appropriate PPE
  • Secure the area, keeping all people well clear of the spill
  • Call EHS at (650) 724-0448 to assist in cleanup
  • Stand by during spill response and cleanup activity and provide assistance only as requested or as necessary