Working with Biohazards – Best Practices

Aseptic techniques are practiced because they are procedures that protect the culture, the worker, and the environment. Good sterile technique is the first and most important step in insuring consistent results. ALWAYS use aseptic technique when handling microorganisms and preparing microbiological media.

In general:

  • Keep the work area as clean as possible.
  • Avoid producing excess aerosols by talking, laughing, etc. while cultures are open.
  • Keep cultures closed as much as possible.
  • Work quick but carefully and accurately.
  • Always wash hands and decontaminate the work area before leaving.
  • Leave your lab coat in the lab.
  • Because contaminating bacteria are ubiquitous and are found on fingertips, bench tops, etc., it is important to minimize contact with these contaminating surfaces.
  • Use a flame on inoculating loops and on the lips of tubes and media bottles before and after pipetting from them.
  • Never leave a media or agar bottle open on the bench.
  • Don’t take an individually-wrapped pipette out of its protective wrapper until you are ready to use it.
  • Always use a fresh, sterile pipette or pipette tip when pipetting culture media, and never go back into a media bottle or cell culture with a used pipette.
  • To prevent wide-scale, untraceable contamination, each person should have his/her own stock of liquid culture media, top agar, plates, 100% glycerol, glycerol stocks of cells, etc. that are not shared.
  • Think about what you are doing. The best defense is common sense.

Repair or Disposal of Equipment used with Biohazardous Agents

Any equipment that has been in contact with biohazardous agents must be decontaminated prior to being repaired or removed from the laboratory. To properly decontaminate research equipment utilized with biohazardous material, follow the instructions given in the EHS Equipment Decontamination Form.

Transporting Level 1 and Level 2 Biological Materials

There are specific guidelines for transporting Level 1 and 2 biological materials. Specific details for how to transport materials for the following scenarios are outlined in the University of Alberta

Biosafety Manual:

  1. Between Adjoining Laboratory Space
  2. Between floors within a Building
  3. Between U of A Buildings (on foot)
  4. Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations & Transfer of Biohazardous Agents off Campus or Between U of A Campuses