Biological Safety in Laboratories

WWU research laboratories are capable of supporting Biosafety Level 1 (BL1) and Biosafety Level 2 (BL2) research.  Any research with recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, genetically modified micro-organisms or genetically modified organisms may require registration with the WWU Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). 

New research faculty should contact the EHS office for more information and for a copy of the Registration Application for Non-Exempt Recombinant DNA in Research and Biological Use Risk Assessment. 

Western Washington University has established an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) whose responsibilities are described in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines). Because the NIH Guidelines are applicable to all research involving the use of recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules that is conducted at or sponsored by any institution that receives support from the National Institutes for Health, they are applicable to everyone who participates in research, instruction, or work at Western.

Biological Agent Use and Risk Assessment in Laboratories

Research with any disease causing organisms or microorganisms that may impact the health of any humans, plants, or animals, must go through a risk assessment and evaluation of laboratory and decontamination / disinfection procedures prior to starting work.  Please note that any human materials, including patient/participant samples, blood, or purchased human cell lines are considered potentially infectious and should be handled using BL2 practices and procedures. Laboratories using human materials please see the Bloodborne Pathogens page for more information and setting up a laboratory Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan.

The WWU IBC and biological safety guidelines for laboratory work are based off the requirements described in the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines) and CDC Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL).

Standard Laboratory Practices

  • Access to the laboratory shall be limited or restricted.
  • Work shall be performed in a manner to prevent the release or escape of any research cultures, animals, or materials, including chemicals.
  • Work surfaces shall be decontaminated once a day and after any spill of viable material.
  • All contaminated liquid or solid wastes shall be decontaminated before disposal.
  • Mechanical pipetting devices shall be used; mouth pipetting is prohibited.
  • Eating, drinking, smoking, and applying cosmetics shall not be permitted in the work area.
  • Persons shall wash their hands after they handle viable materials and animals and before leaving the laboratory.
  • All procedures shall be performed carefully to minimize the creation of aerosols,
  • Contaminated materials that are to be decontaminated at a site away from the laboratory shall be placed in a durable, leak-proof, closed container before being removed from the laboratory

Please review the Biosafety Manual for more information and speak with your supervisor, Principle Investigator or EHS if you have questions.

Additional requirements for work with BL2 materials and disease causing organisms or microorganisms

  • The principal investigator shall establish policies and procedures whereby only persons who have been advised of the potential hazard and meet any specific entry requirements, such as immunization, enter the laboratory or animal rooms. In instances where biological agents may produce infection in humans, the Chemical and Biological Safety Committee advises the principal investigator of the immunization requirements and entry policies. Principal investigators may petition the Committee regarding their specific research proposals.
  • You must fill out and affix the attached biohazard warning sign to entryways where BSL-2 containment is in use. You must include:
    • All biologic agents in use requiring BSL-2 containment
    • PPE and any other entry requirements
    • Name and contact number of the principal investigator and one other responsible person
  • Gloves, laboratory coats, gowns, smocks, or uniforms must be worn while in the laboratory.
  • Before leaving the laboratory for non-laboratory areas, such as the cafeteria, library, or offices, this protective clothing shall be removed and left in the laboratory. PPE used in areas with infectious agents should not be laundered at home.  
  • Animals not involved in the work being performed are not permitted in the laboratory.
  • All wastes shall be appropriately decontaminated before disposal.
    • Needles and other sharps use must be minimized for any manipulations with disease causing materials.
    • Extreme caution shall be used when handling needles and syringes if they are necessary for experimentation. 
    • Avoid auto-inoculation and the generation of aerosols during use and disposal.
    • Needles shall not be bent, sheared, replaced in the sheath or guard, or removed from the syringe following use.
    • The needle and syringe shall be promptly placed in a puncture-resistant container and collected separately from regular waste for disposal.
  • Spills and accidents which result in overt exposures to infectious materials shall be immediately reported to the principal investigator and EHS. Medical evaluation, surveillance, and treatment shall be provided as appropriate.
  • Personnel shall be advised of special hazards attributed to the use of infectious agents and training in handling of these agents must be documented.
  • The principal investigator shall ensure that laboratory cleaning of work surfaces is performed in a manner appropriate to the agents being used and stored in the laboratory.
  • Additional safety equipment or facility controls may be required based on a risk assessment of the agents and procedures used.