Spill Response Guide: Biological Spills

Spill Kits (Spill Response Supplies)

Have spill kits (supplies) on hand in areas where bio-hazardous materials are used. Preparation of a spill kit consolidates spill control materials and personal protective equipment in one location. Tailor each spill kit to meet the needs of each work area. PPE must be selected based on the hazardous materials used. Store kits in a location where individuals can quickly gain access to items needed in the event of a spill. Hazardous materials users should know where to locate the spill kit and how to use the spill response materials contained in the kit.

Risk Assessment

  • What was spilled? (i.e. Bacteria, yeast, pathogen, fungus)
  • Type of spill: Liquid, aerosol, solid
  •  Amount that was spilled
  • Location of the spill
  • Is there a potential for release into the environment?
  • Risk Group (RG) Assessment:
    • 1. RG1: Agents that are not associated with disease in healthy adult humans.
    • 2. RG2: Agents that are associated with human disease which is rarely serious and for which preventive or therapeutic interventions are often available
    • 3. RG3: Agents that are associated with serious or lethal human disease for which preventive or therapeutic interventions may be available (high individual risk but low community risk).

If you have any questions regarding the Risk Assessment, please email the EHS Biosafety Team at

Basic Biological Spill Kit Supplies


Obtain a container to hold the kit contents such as a 5-gallon plastic bucket or Rubbermaid™ tub. If a sharps container is not readily available in the lab, it is recommended that one be added to the spill kit.

Personal Protective Equipment (minimum)

  • 2 pairs splash goggles.
  • 2 pairs Nitrile gloves.
  • 2 pairs plastic, vinyl or rubber shoe covers.
  • 2 disposable lab coats, aprons, or coveralls.

Absorption Materials

Include universal absorbents such as commercial spill pads, pillows, spill socks, and loose absorbents

Cleanup Tools and Materials

  • 3-5 red biohazard waste bags for biohazard spill debris.
  • EHS hazardous waste labels.
  • Forceps or tongs for picking up broken glass or other sharps.
  • Bleach (at least 10% final concentration, made fresh) or another appropriate disinfectant (make sure it is not expired) for final cleanup.

NOTE: Use disposable supplies when possible because contaminated cleanup tools are considered bio-hazardous waste.

Additional Spill Response Items as Necessary for your Work Area

  • Additional PPE such as face shields, face masks, disposable lab coats and disposable gloves.

Bio-hazardous Spill Procedures

General guide for ALL biological spills

  • Wash hands/face with soap and water before and after cleanup.
  • Put on fresh pair of disposable gloves, lab coat and goggles before starting cleanup.
  • A fresh 10% household bleach solution is commonly used as a disinfectant; allow 30 minutes’ contact time (however, use the recommended disinfectant for the material you are handling).
  • Dispose of cleanup materials as biohazard waste in the red Rubbermaid containers.
  • Report all spills to the supervisor.

Spills inside a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

  • Follow general guidance above.
  • Keep cleanup materials inside BSCs (removing hands from inside cabinet disperses aerosols outside cabinet).
  • Leave BSC running during cleanup and at least 10 minutes after completion.
  • Work cautiously and thoroughly, taking care not to spread the spill area and not to disturb the air at the face of the BSC.
  • Use clean cloth and disinfectant solution to wash interior surfaces; follow with 70% ethanol to remove any corrosive residue from the BSC interior.
  • For moderate to high risk spills, flood catch basins (tray under the work surface) with disinfectant and wipe up.

Spills outside a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

Spills outside a biological safety cabinet (BSC) generate aerosols, creating a greater hazard than spills inside a BSC.

The spilled organism’s biohazard risk group determines the cleanup method and level of containment [e.g., RG 2 requires Biosafety Level 2 (BSL2) procedures].

BSL1 containment required

  • Decontaminate with disinfectant-soaked towels (do not squirt disinfectant, you may create aerosols).
  • Clean up with disposable towels or other absorbent pads.
  • Disinfect/clean area again