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Aseptic Technique (sometimes referred to as good microbiological technique) – Work methods designed to reduce or prevent contamination by microorganisms in the environment when working with cultures of microorganisms, sterile materials, or sterile areas; elements of aseptic technique are 1) use and maintenance of sterile work areas and containment equipment (BSC), 2) good personal hygiene, 3) use of sterile reagents and media, and 4) sterile handling methods for equipment, instruments, supplies and other materials.

Biohazardous Materials – A biological agent or condition that constitutes a hazard to human beings or the environment, including:

  • infectious agents (bacterial, viruses, protozoans, fungi, etc.)
  • biotoxins
  • human or non-human primate blood, fluids, cells or tissue culture
  • recombinant DNA and synthetic nucleic acid molecules
  • transgenic microbes, animals, invertebrates and/or plants
  • select agents
  • prions
  • opportunistic pathogens
  • poorly characterized or uncharacterized cell lines, tumors or other tissues
  • cell lines and research materials from other labs that have not been verified
  • replication defective pathogen vectors
  • attenuated strains and fixed materials that have not been tested to verify the attenuation or inactivation of the material

Biohazard Risk Assessment – A summary of pathogenic and epidemiologic information for a biohazardous agent, compiled as a safety reference document for users of that agent. Biohazard risk assessments are among the required documents that comprise a protocol for a proposed bioresearch project; PIs must submit research protocols to the IBC for project approval. PIs are responsible for initially creating biohazard risk assessments, although they may be revised in the IBC project review process.

Biosafety – The application of knowledge, techniques and equipment to prevent personal, laboratory and environmental exposure to infectious/biohazardous agents and materials.

Biosafety Cabinet (sometimes called biological safety cabinet) – An enclosed laboratory work surface equipped with filtered directional air flow. BSCs provide the best place to work with biohazardous materials because they protect workers and the environment from exposure to agents, and protect cultured agents and sterile items from airborne contaminants.

Biosafety Levels – Combinations of laboratory practices, safety equipment and facilities features that define the conditions under which infectious agents can be safely manipulated. Levels of containment range from the lowest Biosafety Level, BSL-1, to the highest at BSL-4, where the most aggressive measures are taken to prevent exposure and release of biohazardous agents. At Virginia Tech, most research laboratories operate at BSL-1 and BSL-2. Two BSL-3 facilities are maintained by highly trained laboratory personnel. Virginia Tech has no BSL-4 facility.

Biosafety Officer/ Associate Biosafety Officer – Individuals responsible for establishing and monitoring workplace safety procedures designed to minimize or prevent exposures and releases of biohazards.

Biotoxin (also known as biological toxin) – Toxic substances of biological origin that may cause death or severe incapacitation at relatively low exposure levels. To utilize or produce biotoxins in research, PIs must have IBC approval and adhere to explicit safety and “Due Diligence” requirements. Certain biotoxins have been designated as select agents.

Decontamination – A process or treatment that removes or neutralizes biologic, chemical or radiologic contamination from a person, object or area. In the biosafety realm, this term can be correctly applied to the autoclaving of biological lab waste prior to disposal, or chemically treating a lab surface with a disinfectant.  The term can refer to achieving an acceptable reduction of microbial contaminants, whereas sterilization refers to a complete elimination of microbes.

Employer’s Accident Report Form – The Virginia Tech form that injured employees are expected to complete in order to report an accident or illness that has arisen out of (or during the course of) their employment; completed forms are submitted to Virginia TechHuman Resources. This form must be completed as soon as possible for the injured employee to be eligible for workers’ compensation.

Exposure – when a biohazardous material has made contact or may have made contact with:

  • a puncture injury site on your body (e.g., needlestick or cut with sharp object)
  • the mucous membranes of your eyes/ nasal passages/ mouth
  • non-intact skin surface (e.g., exposed skin that is chapped, abraded, has dermatitis, etc.)

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) – The oversight body tasked with ensuring that instructional and research activities involving biozardous materials at Virginia Tech are in compliance with federally mandated responsibilities and obligations for proper containment and safe handling of biohazards.

Incident – An event that results in an undesired circumstance. For a lab conducting research using biohazardous materials, examples of incidents are:

  • spills, in or out of containment potential or known exposures
  • loss of containment
  • release of biohazardous agent into the environment
  • injuries/illness caused by lab activities
  • breaches of biosecurity
  • any combination of these

Laboratory Incident Report Form – The Virginia Tech form to be completed by Principal Investigators, Lab Managers and/or lab personnel after the occurrence of an incident/accident in the laboratory; completed forms are submitted to EHS.

Personal Protective Equipment – Protective clothing, headgear, eyewear or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer’s body from physical injury or exposure to hazardous substances/agents. Hazards addressed by PPE include physical, electrical, temperature extremes, chemical, biohazards, and airborne particulates. Typical PPE for biosafety in laboratory research: disposable gloves, lab coat or disposable gown, safety glasses/goggles, face shield, insulated gloves for autoclaving or working with liquid nitrogen storage, respirator for working with respiratory pathogens.

Principal Investigator – The primary individual responsible for the preparation, conduct, and administration of a research grant; for achieving technical success of the research project; and for oversight of laboratory operations and personnel involved in working on the research project.

Primary Barrier –Safety devices which are physical barriers which are used to prevent direct contact between a hazardous agent/material and the worker. These include biosafety cabinets, personal protective equipment, etc. which are intended to protect laboratory workers.

Responsible Official (RO)/ Alternate Responsible Official (ARO) – The individuals who are accountable for Virginia Tech’s Select Agent Program and its compliance with federal select agent regulations. The RO must be familiar with the regulations, have authority to act on behalf of Virginia Tech regarding the Select Agent Program, maintain required records, and conduct annual inspections. The ARO serves as RO when the RO is not available.

Risk Assessment – The process of researching, evaluating, and identifying hazards/potential hazards in procedures, experiments, materials handling, etc. Risk must be assessed in every step of a procedure. Risk assessments also must determine the actions and controls required to eliminate or reduce risks to workers.

Secondary Barrier – Consists of a variety of safety features and devices (air filtration systems, decontamination equipment, facilities design features, etc.) meant to prevent exposure to/release of hazardous agents/materials if primary barriers fail.

Select Agents (also known as Select Agents and Toxins) – Bioagents that have been declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have the “potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.” At Virginia Tech, select agents can only be utilized in research with IBC approval and within the parameters of the Select Agent and Toxins Program.

Sharps – An object that can pierce or cut skin, causing injury and possible hazardous exposure. Higher-risk sharps include needles, scalpel blades, razor blades, glass Pasteur pipettes, broken glass, glass slides, etc.; lower-risk sharps capable of piercing non-rigid containment and creating an exposure risk or minor injury include plastic pipettes, tips, wood applicator sticks, etc.

Spill Kit (Biological) – Materials assembled in a leakproof bucket or a lidded box for use in cleaning up a spill of a biohazardous material in the laboratory. The Spill Kit should be well-labeled, and a wall sign should indicate the location of the Biological Spill Kit in the lab, particularly if it is kept under the bench, so it can be located quickly. Contents of the Biological Spill Kit: Disposable PPE (lab coat, gown or apron, gloves, shoe covers, face shield), absorbent paper towels, dustpan, tongs/forceps, autoclave bags, disinfectant, copy of spill cleanup procedure, spill warning sign to post. Respiratory protection should be provided in labs where agents are used that would present a respiratory hazard when spilled.

Standard Microbiological Practices – Basic hygiene practices or guidelines for working safely with microorganisms, including:

  • Wash hands after working with potentially hazardous materials and before leaving lab.
  • Do not consume food or drink, smoke, or apply cosmetics or contact lenses in the lab. Do not store food in the lab. Do not mouth-pipette.
  • Safely handle and dispose of all sharps.
  • Minimize splashes and aerosols.
  • Decontaminate biological material before disposing of it.
  • Post biohazard signage on lab entrance when working with infectious agents.
  • Maintain an effective pest management program.
  • Ensure that lab personnel receive appropriate training and information that may be relevant to their particular health status.

Sterilization – The complete elimination of microorganisms to achieve a sterile, microbe-free condition; this can be done using a physical procedure (e.g., autoclaving) or chemical procedure (e.g., treatment by a strong disinfectant).



AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the disease that results when the HIV virus attacks the human immune system.

Blood – Human or non-human primate blood, blood components, and products made from blood.

Bloodborne Pathogens – Pathogenic microorganisms that can be present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to:

  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
  • Human immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
  • Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus Type 1
  • Plasmodium species (microbial parasite) causing malaria
  • Treponema pallidum (bacteria) causing syphilis
  • Babesia microti (microbial parasite) causingbabesiosis
  • Brucellaspecies (bacteria) causing brucellosis
  • Leptospira interrogans (bacteria) causing leptospirosis
  • arboviral infections
  • Borrelia species (bacteria) causing relapsing fever
  • Creutzfeldz-Jakob disease (prions)
  • Viral hemorrhagic fever

Clinical Laboratory – A workplace where diagnostic or other medically-oriented screening procedures are performed on human blood or other potentially infectious materials, and differs from a research laboratory, where scientific investigations are conducted which can involve a wide variety of hazardous energy sources and materials, including biohazards.

Contaminated Sharps – Any blood-contaminated object that can penetrate the skin including, but not limited to, needles, scalpels, broken glass, and exposed ends of dental wires.

Engineering Controls – Equipment or devices that isolate or remove the bloodborne pathogens hazard from the workplace. Examples include: sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, equipment splash guards, biosafety cabinets, etc.

HBV – Hepatitis B Virus, a bloodborne pathogen that may cause inflammation of the liver; acute infection can last < 6 mo. with complete recovery; chronic infection lasts > 6 mo. and can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.

HCV – Hepatitis C Virus, a bloodborne pathogen that causes serious liver damage and can be fatal; initial infection can occur with mild or no symptoms; chronic infection results in active liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer.

HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the bloodborne pathogen that attacks the immune system and ultimately causes AIDS.

Non-Human Primate – All non-human members of the order Primates, including, but not limited to, animals commonly known as monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, gibbons, apes, baboons, marmosets, tamarins, lemurs, and lorises.

Occupational Exposure – Reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials which may result from the performance of an employee's duties.

Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM)

 The following human body fluids:

  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • synovialfluid
  • pleural fluid
  • pericardial fluid
  • peritoneal fluid
  • amniotic fluid
  • saliva in dental procedures
  • any fluid mixed with blood
  • any unknown body fluid

 The following human tissues:  

  • any unfixed tissue
  • any unfixed organ (other than intact skin)

 The following research media or materials:      

  • HIV-containing cell culture
  • HIV-containing tissue/organ culture
  • HIV- and HBV-containing culture media
  • human cell lines
  • infected research animal tissue

Regulated Medical Waste – A waste stream regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality which must be disposed of through EHS, even if it has been autoclaved or treated with another form of decontamination. Regulated Medical Waste includes:

  • Cultures and stock of microorganisms and biologicals – Discarded cultures, stocks, specimens, vaccines, and associated items likely to contain organisms likely to be pathogenic to healthy humans.
  • Blood and blood products – Wastes consisting of human blood, human blood products, and items contaminated by human blood.
  • Human tissues and other anatomical wastes – All human anatomical wastes and all wastes that are human tissues, organs, body parts, or body fluids.
  • Sharps – It is university protocol to include all sharps in the regulated medical waste stream, including ALL hollow-bore needles, pipettes, and glassware from biological labs or medical settings.
  • Some animal carcasses, body parts, bedding, and related wastes – Animal carcasses, body parts, bedding, and related wastes if the animal has been intentionally infected with pathogenic organisms and are likely to be contaminated.

Regulated Medical Waste EXEMPTIONS – The following waste streams are not subject to the requirements of regulated medical waste regulations when dispersed among other solid wastes and not accumulated separately:

  • Used products for personal hygiene, such as diapers, facial tissues, and sanitary napkins.
  • Material, not including sharps, containing small amounts of blood or body fluids, but containing no free-flowing or unabsorbed liquid (Band-Aids).

Universal Precautions – A method of infection control – recommended by the CDC – in which all human blood, certain body fluids, as well as fresh tissues and cells of human origin are handled as if they are known to be infected with HIV, HBV, and/or other blood-borne pathogens.

Work Practice Controls – Procedures that reduce the likelihood of exposure through the manner in which tasks are performed.