Laboratory Biosafety Levels: Requirements and PPE (2022)

Understanding Biosafety Level Requirements for Laboratories: Lab Design, Procedures, and PPE

Research and biomedical labs often work with live and potentially dangerous microorganisms. For this reason, specific lab designs, lab safety procedures, and personal protective equipment for biosafety labs must be in place to prevent contamination or the accidental release of these contaminants.

In this article, we discuss the different Biological Safety Levels, the specific practices and regulations required at each level, and the type of biosafety PPE used in each laboratory setting.

What Are Biological Safety Levels (BSL)?

Biological Safety Levels (also called BSL or biosafety levels) are a series of clearly defined, closely regulated standards for laboratories throughout the world. These standards specifically apply to the lab design, lab safety procedures, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be used in biosafety labs.

As noted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the BSL classification system ensures that appropriate precautions are taken in order to protect workers, the public, and the environment from potentially harmful pathogens found in that setting.

Biosafety level requirements apply to a variety of industries, including biomedical research, pharmacological, ecological, environmental, and biological.

The 4 BSL Levels

There are four BSL levels or ranks, ranging from BSL-1 to BSL-4. A lab's BSL level is primarily based on the agents or organisms found within that particular lab. Additional factors that should be considered when determining lab levels include:

  • The severity of a potential infection or contamination by a given organism or agent
  • The origin of the organisms
  • Possible routes of exposure to the agents or organisms
  • Risks related to containment
  • The nature of the work being conducted by laboratory staff

Other types of labs, including those designated for animal research (ASBL) and agricultural research (BSL-Ag), have their own specific rules and regulations given the larger size of the organisms present in these facilities (e.g., animals, insects, and plants).

(Video) 6 1 Biosafety Levels

How BSL Levels Operate: Workplace Safety Practices, Job Functions, Facility Construction, and Access Restrictions based on Lab Levels

Biosafety levels dictate the type of work or research that can take place within a given lab, as well as the type of organisms that can be used or studied there. Biosafety levels even influence the overall design of the facility and the specialized safety equipment found inside.

It's important for anyone working within a biological laboratory setting to understand the four different biosafety level requirements, as well as the specific requirements for their laboratory, based on the lab's BSL rating. Let's take a closer look at the specific safety practices, typical activities or duties, and personnel access restrictions of each different biosafety level. (Personal protective equipment for biosafety labs is discussed in the following section.)

Laboratory Biosafety Levels: Requirements and PPE (1)

BSL-1

Laboratories designated as BSL-1, the lowest of the four biosafety levels, involve work with agents or organisms that pose a minimal threat to personnel and the environment.

Safety Practices

Only standard microbial practices are required at BSL-1 lab facilities, which include the following:

  • Work can be performed on a table or open lab bench
  • All spills should be immediately decontaminated
  • All sharps must be safely handled and disposed of
  • Infectious materials should be decontaminated prior to being disposed, typically with the use of an autoclave (autoclaves are machines that use superheated steam under pressure to kill microorganisms)
  • Activities must be performed in ways that minimize the risk of splashes and spills
  • People must practice basic hand hygiene, including before and after performing job functions and before leaving the laboratory
  • Eating, smoking, drinking, putting on cosmetics, and handling contact lenses or clear aligners is absolutely not permitted in the laboratory area
  • All pipetting must be done with mechanical pipette devices (no mouth pipetting)
  • Appropriate biohazard signage must be used

Common Pathogens Studied or Job Functions Performed

An example of an organism that could be studied in a BSL-1 lab would be the nonlethal agent E. coli.

Facility Construction

No special lab design features or equipment are required in BSL-1 labs. Laboratory surfaces, including benches, tables, and floors, should be easy to clean. Labs must also have sinks for handwashing. However, BSL-1 labs should have doors that separate the working laboratory space from the rest of the facility.

(Video) biosafety levels 1 2 3 4 | laboratory safety levels.

Access Restrictions

BSL-1 facilities are non-isolated. They do not have any special access restrictions, perhaps beyond general signage (e.g., "Authorized Personnel Only"), and do not have to be separate from other nearby facilities.

Understanding BSL-2

Laboratories designated as BSL-2 involve work with agents or organisms that are associated with human disease and pose moderate hazards to personnel and the environment.

Safety Practices

In addition to standard microbial practices, BSL-2 labs will also have additional safety practices in place:

  • Any procedure that can cause infection from aerosolized particles or splashes should be done inside a biological safety cabinet (BSC)
  • Autoclaves or other methods of decontamination must be made available for waste disposal

Common Pathogens Studied or Job Functions Performed

Organisms that might be studied in a BSL-2 lab include eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and Staphylococcus aureus.

Facility Construction

BSL-2 labs should have self-closing doors and have an eyewash station in addition to a sink for handwashing.

Access Restrictions

Outside personnel are often restricted access to BSL-2 labs when work is being conducted.

BSL-3

Laboratories designated as BSL-3 involve work with agents or organisms that are considered indigenous or exotic, agents that present a potential for aerosol transmission, and agents that can cause serious or potentially fatal diseases.

(Video) Biological safety

Safety Practices

In addition to following standard microbial practices, people working in BSL-3 labs are medically supervised and may be required to receive immunizations for the organisms or pathogens they work with. All work with organisms must be done within a BSC and autoclaves are generally used.

Common Pathogens Studied or Job Functions Performed

Organisms that might be studied in a BSL-2 lab include yellow fever, West Nile virus (WNV), and tuberculosis (TB). These agents are generally under strict control and registration by governmental agencies.

Facility Construction

Special design considerations for BSL-3 labs include the following:

  • Eyewash stations and hands-free sinks must be available near the exits
  • Exhaust air cannot be recirculated
  • Labs must have sustained directional air flow, with air drawn in from clear areas and directed toward potentially contaminated areas
  • Labs must have two sets of self-closing and locking doors

Access Restrictions

BSL-3 labs have restricted and controlled access at all times.

BSL-4

Laboratories designated as BSL-4 have the most stringent level of protection because they involve work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high risk of aerosol-transmitted infections and life-threatening illnesses. There are currently only 13 BSL-4 labs (planned or in operation) in the United States, and only 59 BSL-4 labs in the entire world.

Safety Practices

Labs designated with BSL-4 must fulfill all BSL-3 considerations, and must also have daily facility and equipment inspections as well as class III biological safety cabinets for all work involving organisms.

Personnel must be closely monitored for signs and symptoms of illness. Logs must be kept of the dates and times of all personnel, equipment, and supplies entering and leaving containment areas. All materials leaving the lab space must be thoroughly decontaminated.

(Video) What are the different biosafety levels (BSL) in a lab - CytoSMART Academy

Finally, laboratory personnel must change their clothes prior to entering the lab and must shower prior to exiting the lab space.

Common Pathogens Studied or Job Functions Performed

Organisms that might be studied in a BSL-4 lab include Ebola virus and Marburg virus. BSL-4 labs are often the setting of riskier activities, including gain of function (GOF) research. GOF research is a type of medical research used to genetically modify a microorganism, typically to make the microorganism more transmissible, virulent, or immunogenic (able to provoke an immune response in a human or animal).

BSL-3 labs are also permitted to perform GOF research.

Facility Construction

BSL-4 labs are typically found in separate buildings or in strictly isolated areas of a building. The lab itself must have dedicated exhaust air, vacuum lines, and decontamination systems.

Access Restrictions

BSL-4 labs are heavily restricted and are often completely isolated from nearby buildings or facilities, in addition to being closed off to any outside personnel.

Biosafety PPE for Biosafety Labs: Using the Right Personal Protective Equipment for The Right Lab Level

Personal protective equipment is required for use in all BSL facilities. However, the specific type of PPE required will vary depending on the biosafety level and activities performed.

Personal protective equipment for biosafety labs can be categorized as follows:

(Video) Safety | Lab Safety | Biosafety levels Rules || PPE _ Safety Equipment

  • BSL-1: lab coats, gloves, and eye protection should be worn as needed
  • BSL-2: lab coats, gloves, eye protection, and face shields
  • BSL-3: lab coats, gloves, eye protection, face shields, and possibly respirators
  • BSL-4: personnel in this setting must wear full body, air-supplied, positive pressure suits

Conclusion

Biosafety levels are used to classify laboratories based on the type of organisms and nature of work found within, for the express purpose of keeping personnel, the public, and the environment safe. To learn how disposable personal protective equipment can help your laboratory remain in compliance, contact International Enviroguard today at 1-866-734-7515.

FAQs

What is PPE is required for biosafety level 1 labs? ›

Personal protective equipment for biosafety labs can be categorized as follows: BSL-1: lab coats, gloves, and eye protection should be worn as needed. BSL-2: lab coats, gloves, eye protection, and face shields. BSL-3: lab coats, gloves, eye protection, face shields, and possibly respirators.

What are the personal protective equipment requirements for a biosafety level 2 lab? ›

Standard BSL-2 PPE consists of a dedicated lab coat, gloves, and eye protection. Other PPE may be required (see EH&S PPE Assessment Guide). Do not wear PPE in public areas.

What biosafety level does not need any biosafety equipment? ›

Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1)

They follow basic safety procedures, called Standard Microbiological Practices and require no special equipment or design features. Standard engineering controls in BSL-1 laboratories include easily cleaned surfaces that are able to withstand the basic chemicals used in the laboratory.

What is the PPE for containment Level 3 pathogen? ›

Safety equipment

Appropriate PPE is worn, including lab coats and gloves, eye protection and face shields. All procedures that can cause infection from aerosols or splashes are performed within a biological safety cabinet (BSC). An autoclave or an alternative method of decontamination is available.

What is PPE in biosafety? ›

PPE can be as basic as eye protection (safety glasses or goggles), gloves, and a lab coat or as complex as a Biosafety Level 4 “positive pressure suit” that completely isolates the employee from the laboratory environment. The use of specific PPE required is determined through a risk assessment.

What are the 3 PPE for lab? ›

Staff/Students/Volunteers working in a lab: a lab coat, protective eyewear, long pants and closed toe shoes are the minimum PPE for work in a laboratory where chemical, biological, radiological, or mechanical hazards are present.

What are the essential PPE to use when handling the biological agent in a laboratory? ›

Personal protective equipment includes gloves, masks, lab coats, and other wearable equipment (such as safety glasses and respirators) that protect laboratory workers from infectious agents and toxins in the laboratory.

What are the important personal protective equipment PPE that must always be in used in the microbiology laboratory? ›

5.3. 1 At a minimum, a lab coat, closed-toe shoes, eye protection (when necessary), and protective, disposable gloves must be worn in any microbiology laboratory. This equipment prevents bio-hazardous materials from contact with the skin and eyes, including areas where there might be cuts, abrasions, or dermatitis.

Why is PPE important? ›

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essentially a range items you can wear that will protect you against various hazardous conditions. PPE is important because it prepares you for health and safety risks and gives you extra protection in the event of an accident or against the elements.

Which level of biosafety is appropriate for handling organisms? ›

Which level of biosafety (BSL) is appropriate for handling organisms that present a moderate risk of infection? BSL-2 labs feature open bench tops, lab coats, gloves, and appropriate eyewear for use in working with microbes that are moderately pathogenic.

What are the main biosafety practices in a laboratory? ›

  • 1.0 Respiratory Protection Program Introduction.
  • 2.0 Responsibility.
  • 3.0 Medical Evaluation.
  • 4.0 Education and Training.
  • 5.0 Respirator Selection and Use.
  • 6.0 Respiratory Equipment.
  • 7.0 Maintenance and Care of Respirators.
  • 8.0 Quantitative Fit Testing Procedures.
Jan 18, 2022

What biosafety level is designated for organisms that don't usually cause disease in humans? ›

BSL-1. If you work in a lab that is designated a BSL-1, the microbes there are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults and present minimal potential hazard to laboratorians and the environment.

What is the order for donning PPE? ›

Sequence for donning and doffing personal protective equipment (...
  1. Perform hand hygiene.
  2. Put on shoe covers (if applicable)
  3. Put on gown.
  4. Put on mask/respirator (if applicable)
  5. Put on eye protection (if applicable)
  6. Put on gloves.

What is the correct sequence of putting on PPE? ›

Putting on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Perform hand hygiene before putting on PPE. The order for putting on PPE is Apron or Gown, Surgical Mask, Eye Protection (where required) and Gloves.

Which of the following safety measures are required for BSL-3 organisms? ›

Common requirements in a BSL-3 laboratory include: Standard personal protective equipment must be worn, and respirators might be required. Solid-front wraparound gowns, scrub suits or coveralls are often required. All work with microbes must be performed within an appropriate BSC.

How PPE personal protective equipment can be useful in the blood bank? ›

When used properly, PPE acts as a barrier between infectious materials such as viral and bacterial contaminants and your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes (mucous membranes). The barrier has the potential to block transmission of contaminants from blood, body fluids, or respiratory secretions.

What PPE will you use especially when operating machines with extreme temperature and handling chemicals? ›

Safety goggles will protect a worker from acids, chemical gases, vapors, and its especially important to keep liquid chemicals for splashing into the eye. Face shields are a good option for especially dangerous chemicals that are at risk for splashing or misting onto the face.

What are the 4 levels of PPE? ›

Levels of PPE
  • Full-face or half-mask, air-purifying respirator (NIOSH approved).
  • Chemical resistant clothing (one piece coverall, hooded two piece chemical splash suit, chemical resistant hood and apron, disposable chemical resistant coveralls.)
  • Gloves, outer, chemical resistant.
  • Gloves, inner, chemical resistant.

What are PPE requirements? ›

29 CFR 1910.132: General requirements says that all PPE has to meet these minimum requirements: Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed. Be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed. Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions.

What is PPE and examples? ›

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs) hard hats, respirators and full body suits. Understand the types of PPE.

What is the minimum personal protective equipment PPE needed in the chemistry laboratory? ›

The minimal PPE is chemical resistant gloves or gloves appropriate to the hazard, lab jacket or apron, goggles, and closed-toed shoes. The use of respiratory protection must be cleared through the OEHS.

Why do we wear mask in laboratory? ›

Facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing the facemask and are therefore useful when cleaning up spills of infectious materials.

What are the principles of biosafety? ›

Containment. Laboratory biosafety practices are based on the principle of containment of biological agents to prevent exposure to laboratory workers and the outside environment. Primary containment protects the laboratory workers and the immediate laboratory environment from exposure to biological agents.

What is the minimum PPE that must be worn in all laboratories when working with hazardous chemicals or performing hazardous tasks choose all that apply? ›

All laboratory personnel are required to wear PPE when working with chemicals. At a minimum this includes pants and closed toe shoes, chemically resistant gloves, a laboratory coat, and eye protection.

What are the types of PPE? ›

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • safety helmets.
  • ear protection.
  • high visibility clothing.
  • safety footwear and safety harnesses.
  • thermal, weather and waterproof clothing.
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Nov 10, 2020

What are the 10 most important lab safety rules? ›

General Laboratory Safety Rules
  • Know locations of laboratory safety showers, eyewashstations, and fire extinguishers. ...
  • Know emergency exit routes.
  • Avoid skin and eye contact with all chemicals.
  • Minimize all chemical exposures.
  • No horseplay will be tolerated.
  • Assume that all chemicals of unknown toxicity are highly toxic.

When should PPE be used in the workplace? ›

When to use PPE. PPE is one of the least effective control measures. It must only be considered after applying higher level measures, such as removing a hazard or substituting it for something safer.

Why is the use of PPE important in healthcare? ›

PPE is designed to protect you from harmful substances such as chemicals or infectious agents. In a pandemic situation, it can also help prevent the transmission of infection between staff and patients. PPE is one measure within the hierarchy of controls used in the workplace.

How do you dispose of BSL 1 bacteria? ›

Solids: Dispose of solid waste in double red biohazard bags both labeled with address, that are held in rigid, covered containers with biohazard label. Transport to biohazard collection area in a closed rigid container for final disposal by EH&S.

What pH level do bacteria prefer? ›

Upper and Lower pH Values

Most bacteria grow best around neutral pH values (6.5 - 7.0), but some thrive in very acid conditions and some can even tolerate a pH as low as 1.0.

Who is primarily responsible for biosafety risk assessment? ›

The laboratory director is specifically and primarily responsible for assessing the risks and applying the appropriate biosafety levels.

Why is it important to know and follow all safety rules in the microbiology laboratory? ›

Safety in a microbiology laboratory is important in the prevention of infection that might be caused by the microorganisms being studied. In addition, many of the reagents, equipment, and procedures used are potentially hazardous.

What is the definition of biosafety? ›

Definition of biosafety

: safety with respect to the effects of biological research on humans and the environment.

Why is biosafety and biosecurity important? ›

Biosafety provides policies and practices to prevent the unintentional or accidental release of specific biological agents and toxins, whereas biosecurity provides policies and practices to prevent the intentional or negligent release of biological materials or the acquisition of knowledge, tools, or techniques that ...

Which biosafety level carries the greatest risk? ›

The four biosafety levels are BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4, with BSL-4 being the highest (maximum) level of containment. There are additional specific rules and designations for animal research (ABSL), agricultural research (BSL-Ag), and other types of research.

Which item should be worn at all times in the laboratory? ›

Wear safety goggles at all times in the laboratory and a laboratory apron when appropriate. Closed toe shoes must be worn (no sandals). Avoid wearing overly bulky or loose fitting clothing.

Why is it important to prepare a clean area before starting an experiment? ›

Prior to start an experiment in the microbiology laboratory, it is important to prepare a clean area to prevent contamination of cultures and samples. Hand washing once just prior to labs is the only time hand washing is recommended to avoid personal contamination.

What essential protective equipment PPE must always be used in the microbiology laboratory? ›

1 At a minimum, a lab coat, closed-toe shoes, eye protection (when necessary), and protective, disposable gloves must be worn in any microbiology laboratory. This equipment prevents bio-hazardous materials from contact with the skin and eyes, including areas where there might be cuts, abrasions, or dermatitis.

When selecting PPE what must be considered? ›

Selection of PPE

PPE should be selected based primarily on the hazards identified during the assessment. However, employers should also take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for each employee. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE.

What is the order for donning PPE? ›

Sequence for donning and doffing personal protective equipment (...
  1. Perform hand hygiene.
  2. Put on shoe covers (if applicable)
  3. Put on gown.
  4. Put on mask/respirator (if applicable)
  5. Put on eye protection (if applicable)
  6. Put on gloves.

When working with BSL 2 organisms such as salmonella which PPE measures should be used as needed? ›

In addition to BSL 1 expectation, the following practices are required in a BSL 2 lab setting: Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn, including lab coats and gloves. Eye protection and face shields can also be worn, as needed.

What is the importance of using PPE in the laboratory? ›

Proper PPE and laboratory attire help minimize the potential for skin exposure to hazardous chemicals, biological agents, and other hazardous materials.

Why is PPE important? ›

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essentially a range items you can wear that will protect you against various hazardous conditions. PPE is important because it prepares you for health and safety risks and gives you extra protection in the event of an accident or against the elements.

What is the most important part of the body to protect in the laboratory? ›

Eye Protection

Of course, your eyes are more susceptible to major injury than other parts of your body. For these reasons, eye protection is crucial in the laboratory. You will be issued a pair of safety glasses or goggles during check-in.

Who is responsible for using sufficient PPE? ›

On May 15, 2008, a new OSHA rule about employer payment for PPE went into effect. With few exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.

How do you safely use PPE? ›

Wear gloves, it should cover the cuff (wrist) of the gown. Prior to entering the patient area including the isolation room, PPE must be donned appropriately. While on duty, PPE must remain in place and be worn correctly especially in potentially contaminated areas. When attending patients, do not adjust the PPE.

Who is responsible for adequate PPE? ›

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace to protect all workers, including providing and maintaining PPE. Make it a habit to wear your PPE, and ensure the workers you supervise wear theirs.

What PPE should be removed first? ›

The order for removing PPE is Gloves, Apron or Gown, Eye Protection, Surgical Mask. Perform hand hygiene immediately on removal. All PPE should be removed before leaving the area and disposed of as healthcare waste.

How do you remove PPE? ›

Remove protective eyewear/face shield

Remove eyewear/face shield by tilting the head forward and lifting the head band or ear pieces. Avoid touching the front surface of the eyewear/ face shield. Reusable items should be placed in a designated receptable for reprocessing. Place disposable items into waste.

How often does the PPE need to be cleaned and inspected? ›

Inspections should be conducted regularly and include all operations, equipment, work areas, and facilities during each shift. 3. Identify control options for identified hazards. Each hazard should be classified by type, level of risk, and the seriousness of any potential injury.

How do you dispose of BSL 1 bacteria? ›

Solids: Dispose of solid waste in double red biohazard bags both labeled with address, that are held in rigid, covered containers with biohazard label. Transport to biohazard collection area in a closed rigid container for final disposal by EH&S.

What are the three primary routes of transmission at BSL-2? ›

Routes of Exposure

inhalation, 2. direct contact with skin or mucous membranes, 3. ingestion, and 4. injection.

Is Human Blood considered BSL-2? ›

BSL-2 is the biosafety level used for work with human blood, body fluids, or tissues where the presence of an infectious agent may be unknown. Primary hazards at BSL-2 include accidental percutaneous or mucous membrane exposures, exposure of non-intact skin, or ingestion of infectious materials.

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