Additional Info - Biosafety

Exposures, Incidents and Near Misses


Infectious/biohazardous agents used in research/teaching labs include microorganisms, viruses, recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, biological toxins and other biohazardous materials that may be capable causing disease, adverse health effects or contamination.

Exposures to biohazardous materials include the following:

  • Needle-sticks or other percutaneous injuries from a contaminated sharp
  • Splashes to mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth)
  • Inhalation of aerosolized material (large spill outside of a biosafety cabinet, centrifuge tube malfunction, etc.)
  • Contact with open wounds, scratches, cuts
  • Bites or scratches from infected animals

Accidents include the following:

  • Release of BSL-2 or BSL-3 agent from its primary containment/equipment malfunction
  • Environmental release such as a spill (for spill response)
  • Theft/loss of infectious agents/rDNA materials
  • Escape of infected or transgenic animals

The following emergency response procedures shall be followed when a worker has been potentially exposed to infectious agents including bloodborne pathogens via a needle-stick, cut, infected animal bite, or scratch, via mucous membrane contact, or via non-intact skin contact to ensure prompt and appropriate care. Some post-exposure treatments must be started within 1-2 hours of exposure so time is critical.

Immediate response:
The exposed site must be washed immediately for 10 minutes with copious amounts of water

  • Remove any contaminated clothing
  • If needle-stick, cut, animal bite or scratch, wash with soap and water after allowing the wound to bleed freely. Apply an appropriate skin disinfectant if applicable.
  • If mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) flush with water at the nearest faucet or eye wash station for at least 15 minutes.
  • If skin contact (intact or non-intact) wash with soap and water. Apply an appropriate skin disinfectant if applicable.
  • Seek medical attention, no matter how seemingly insignificant they injury may seem.


  • For medical emergencies call 911.
  • Report all work related injuries and/or work related illnesses immediately (on the day of exposure or injury) to your supervisor/lab director/PI. Call AmeriSys as soon as practical at (800) 455-2079 to report the work-related injury or illness.
  • Notify Biosafety officer by phone at (813) 974-0954 or via email if involving infectious agents/ recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules about t the lab accident/potential exposure and the organisms involved.
  • Follow-up with Employee Health for medical evaluation and treatment

Accident/Incident Investigation:

The goal of an accident investigation is to determine the causal factors surrounding the incident and recommendation of corrective actions to prevent similar occurrences. Investigators avoid emphasis on assigning blame for the accident, as this threatens the credibility and effectiveness of the accident investigation process. The Overall goal is to promote safe practices and to protect the researchers from exposure/hazards and to mitigate as much as possible.

When reporting to the Biosafety Office be sure to include:

  1. Description of the incident
  2. Organism(s) involved
  3. PPE worn at time of incident
  4. Cause of the incident (i.e. protocol breach)
  5. Solution to prevent similar future events

Blood Borne Pathogens

For all USF Health faculty, staff and students, if exposed to a blood borne pathogen contact the USF Health Medical Health Administration Office at (813) 974-3163 or by pager at (813) 216-0153 during regular working hours. Contact the "on-call" Infectious Disease Physician at (813) 974-2201 after-hours and on weekends.

All USF System faculty, staff and volunteers who have the potential for occupational exposure to blood borne pathogens with the exception of employees, faculty, staff and volunteers at USF Health must comply with the "USF Bloodborne Pathogens policy 6-031." (PDF)

Near Misses

There are often incidents that did not result in an injury or an illness, but which might easily have done so. Near misses are narrowly avoided occurrences that could have resulted in staff being exposed to a biological agent and/or recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules.

What is a near miss?

  1. You observe an event that could have resulted in an exposure or illness if a person had been present in a location where they might normally be present but just happened not to be at the time.
  2. An equipment failure occurs that might have resulted in an exposure to an employee had they been utilizing the equipment at the time with infectious agents or been in the immediate vicinity of the equipment when it failed.
  3. You slipped when injecting with infectious agents, or in other words you didn't sustain an injury/exposure but the act you performed could have resulted in an injury but you "caught yourself this time."
  4. You recognize a practice you are conducting is missing a step such as failing to disinfect the BSC counters/surfaces after use that could potentially lead to exposure.

The Biosafety program is tracking these Near Misses as they may identify situations where implementation of practices and precautions may be able to prevent similar future incidents. Fill out a USF Incident and Near Miss Reporting Form to document the recognition of a hazard, to document the change that is made to prevent a recurrence of the potential of being exposed to biohazard/ and/or recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules and to share what you have learned with others. For more information contact Environmental Health and Safety.

The identification of near misses helps to identify risks before someone is injured/exposed.

For more information/questions contact the Biosafety office.