General Laboratory Safety Practices

The following requirements are basic for any laboratory using hazardous biological materials.

  1. Training: All laboratory personnel and others whose work requires them to enter the laboratory must understand the chemical and biological hazards in the laboratory and be trained in appropriate safety precautions and procedures. Personnel must know, understand, and follow standard practices and procedures. In addition to the mandated safety training provided by EHS, specific laboratory safety training shall be provided by the principal investigator or their designate and competence in safe technique must be demonstrated before work is allowed with hazardous agents or toxic material.
  2. Safety Procedures Manual: A laboratory safety manual must be prepared or adopted. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to ensure that the manual identifies known and potential chemical and biological hazards and specifies the practices and procedures to eliminate or minimize such risks. The manual must contain an emergency response plan.
  3. The laboratory must be kept neat, orderly and clean, and storage of materials not pertinent to the work must be minimized.
  4. Laboratory clothing: Protective laboratory clothing (uniforms, coats, gowns) must be available, worn by all personnel including visitors, trainees, and others entering or working in the laboratory, and be properly fastened. Protective laboratory clothing must not be worn in non-laboratory areas. The U of T Lab Coat Guidelines is available HERE (PDF).
  5. Footwear: Suitable footwear with closed toes and heels and non-slip soles must be worn in all laboratory areas. The U of T Protective Footwear Standard is available HERE (PDF).
  6. Gloves: Gloves must be worn for all procedures that might involve direct skin contact with chemicals, toxins, blood, infectious materials or infected animals. Rings or hand jewelry interfering with glove use must be removed before gloving. The wearing of jewelry in the laboratory is discouraged. Gloves must be removed carefully and decontaminated with other laboratory wastes before disposal. Reusable gloves (e.g. insulated, chemical resistant, etc.) may be used where necessary and must be appropriately decontaminated after use. Metal mesh gloves can be worn underneath disposable gloves. The U of T Protective Glove Standard is available HERE (PDF).
  7. Face and eye protection: Ocular protection (e.g., glasses, goggles, face shields, or other protective devices) must be worn when necessary to protect the face and eyes from splashes, impacting objects, harmful substances, UV light, or other rays. The U of T Protective Eye and Facewear Standard is available HERE (PDF).
  8. Eating, drinking, smoking, storing food or utensils, applying cosmetics, and inserting or removing contact lenses are not permitted in any laboratory area. Contact lenses are not protective devices, and must be used only in conjunction with appropriate protective eyewear in eye hazard areas. Wearing jewelry is not recommended in the laboratory.
  9. Oral pipetting is prohibited in any laboratory.
  10. Long hair must be tied back or restrained.
  11. Hand-washing: Hands must be washed before leaving the laboratory, and after handling materials known or suspected to be contaminated, even when gloves have been worn.
  12. Decontamination: Work surfaces must be cleaned and decontaminated with an appropriate disinfectant at the end of the day and after any spill of potentially hazardous material. Loose or cracked work surfaces must be repaired or replaced immediately.
  13. All technical procedures must be performed in a manner that minimizes the creation of aerosols.
  14. Biological Waste disposal: All laboratories which manipulate biological materials, and generate waste containing such agents are responsible for the separation, packaging and treatment of their laboratory waste prior to its removal and disposal according to the University of Toronto Laboratory Hazardous Waste Management and Disposal ManualBiological Waste Disposal.
  15. Laboratory Access: Access to Containment Level 3 laboratories are strictly limited. Decisions regarding entry into CL 1 and CL 2 laboratories must be at the discretion of the principal investigator or their designate (e.g. only persons who have been advised of the potential hazards and meet any specific entry requirements such as immunization should be allowed to enter the laboratory area). Persons under the age of 16 years must be accompanied as appropriate in the laboratory or support areas. Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals who work in or enter the laboratory must be advised of the associated risks.
  16. Signage: Hazard warning signs indicating the containment level must be posted outside each laboratory operating at Containment Level 2 or 3. The names of the laboratory supervisor and any other responsible person(s) along with emergency contact information must be included on the door sign.
  17. Needles and Syringes: The use of needles and syringes and other sharp objects should be strictly limited. Hypodermic needles and syringes must be used only for parenteral injection and aspiration of fluids from laboratory animals and diaphragm bottles. If practical, safety-engineered needles must be used. Extreme caution must be used when handling needles and syringes to avoid autoinoculation and the generation of aerosols during use and disposal. Needles must not be bent or sheared. Disposable needles and syringes must not be replaced in their sheath or guard. They must be placed into a puncture-resistant yellow container and autoclaved, in accordance with CSA standard Z316.6-14(R2000). All laboratories that generate sharp or pointed waste are responsible for the segregation and packaging of their laboratory waste prior to its removal and disposal in accordance to the University of Toronto Sharp Waste Management Program.
  18. Incident Reporting: All spills, accidents (needle sticks, punctures, cuts, etc.) and overt or potential exposures must be reported to the principal investigator or laboratory supervisor or acting alternate as soon as circumstances permit. The supervisor must immediately inform the Senior Biosafety Officer and file a report via the University of Toronto EHS website ( Appropriate medical evaluation, surveillance, and treatment must be sought and provided as required. Actions taken to prevent future occurrences should be documented. Any other type of concern, i.e. inadvertent release of biological materials; inadvertent production of human, animal, or plant pathogens or toxins; or reason to believe that a human, animal, or plant pathogen or toxin has been stolen or is otherwise missing, should be reported to the Senior Biosafety Officer.
  19. Medical surveillance: Baseline sera or other specimens may be collected from laboratory and other at-risk personnel and stored when deemed necessary by the EHS Occupational Health Nurse. Additional serum specimens may be collected periodically, depending on the agent handled or the function of the facility. Confidentiality will be maintained according to the legal obligations of the Regulated Health Disciplines Act, or its subsequent revision. Tests will not be performed without the informed consent of the donor. Laboratory users should be protected by appropriate immunization where possible. Levels of antibody considered to be effective should be documented. Appropriate immunization or evidence of exposure should be maintained in a confidential manner. Particular attention must be given to individuals who are or may become immunocompromised, as vaccine administration may be different than for immunologically competent adults. Principal Investigators should contact the EHS Occupational Health Nurse for information and advice on appropriate immunization and medical surveillance.
  20. Doors to laboratories must not be left open (this does not apply to an open area within a laboratory).
  21. Open wounds, cuts, scratches and grazes should be covered with waterproof dressings.
  22. Disinfectants effective against the agents in use must be available at all times within the areas where the biohazardous material is handled or stored.
  23. Leak-proof secondary containers are to be used for the transport of infectious materials within facilities (e.g., between laboratories in the same facility/building).
  24. An effective pest control program (e.g., rodents and arthropods) must be maintained.