Biosafety Program

The Biosafety Program at Cal State LA provides assistance, technical information, and materials to laboratory researchers, instructors, and clinical staff to assure the health and safety of all personnel.

The program is designed to ensure that the campus community is protected from biological hazards. Biological hazards can be agents or materials that can present a risk to the health of an individual and the campus community. Mitigating potential biohazard exposures is done by engineering and administrative controls as well as personal protection equipment. 

Biosafety Information

Biological laboratories are categorized by their level of hazard as Biosafety Level (BSL) 1-4. As the degree of protection and risk for personnel and the environment of the lab increases, the levels of BSL are designated in ascending order.  Currently, our campus is composed of only of BSL 1 & 2 laboratories, most laboratories at Cal State LA are BSL 1. The BSL table below (adapted from Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) 6th Edition, Laboratory Biosafety Level Criteria) shows how a particular laboratory will be rated depending on the nature of the laboratory and what the requirements are.

Biosafety Level Classifications

BSL Agents  Practices Primary Barriers & Safety Equipment

Facilities (Secondary Barriers)

1 Well-characterized agents are not known to cause disease in healthy adults or the environment.  Standard Microbiological Practices
  • No primary barriers are required. 
  • PPE: laboratory coats and gloves; eye, and face protection, as needed 
  • Open bench Top
  • Sink required 

Agents associated with human disease pose moderate hazards to healthy adults and the enviroment.

Hazard = autoinoculation, ingestion, mucous membrane expsoure, etc.

BSL-1 practice plus: 

  • Limited access 
  • Biohazard warning signs 
  • Sharps precautions 
  • Biosafety manual defining any needed waste decontamination or medical surveillance policies 

Primary barriers: 

  • BSCs or other physical containment devices used for all manipulations of agents that may cause splashes or aerosols.  
  • PPE: Laboratory coats, gloves, face, and eye protection, including respiratory protection as needed 

BSL-1 plus: 

  • Self-closing doors.
  • Autoclave available 




Biological Spills

Please Note—These are general guidelines and must always be augmented with training and procedures specific to the hazards associated with the biological material/hazard in use within your area. These procedures are not intended to replace site-specific procedures or best practices.  

If this is an emergency, please contact 911 from any campus phone or mobile device. Give detailed information and wait for the emergency response from a safe distance. 

Below is additional information, meant to prevent injuries and mitigate hazards during a biological spill clean-up. Biological spills should only be cleaned up by someone who is trained and has direct knowledge of the types of hazards present in the area. If at any time the spill is beyond your capability to handle, call an EH&S specialist for help. 

When working with biological materials/hazards, emergency contact info is to be posted in all areas where BSL-1 and 2 work is conducted. The information must include business hours and after-hours contact information.  

Minor Biological Spill (less than 10mL) 

In the event of a minor biological spill, the following procedures should be used by trained, knowledgeable, and experienced laboratory workers only:  

  1. Notify others in the area, to prevent contamination of additional personnel and environment.  
  2. Remove any contaminated clothing and wash exposed skin with disinfectant.  
  3. Put on the proper personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, lab coat, face protection or eye protection) as necessary. Cover the spill with paper towels and pour concentrated disinfectant around the spill allowing it to mix with the spilled material. Allow suitable contact time of at least 15 minutes.  
  4. Discard all disposal materials used to clean up the spill into a compliant biohazard bag. Make sure to tie appropriately as explained on the “Proper Tying Method” (link to pdf poster).  
  5. Wash hands with soap and hand-washing disinfectant.  
  6. Post-event follow-up should include notification of the principal investigator (PI) and Biosafety Officer (BSO).  

Major Biological Spill

Who do I contact if there is a biological spill?  

For a larger biological spill, contact your PI and/or RMEHS for additional assistance. Major biological spills should only be handled by trained personnel.

During Business Hours (Monday thru Friday 8 am to 5 pm): 
RMEHS Department: Call ext. 3-3531 from any campus phone or 323-343-3531 from any mobile device. 
After Hours (and Weekends):
University Police Department: Call 911 from any campus phone or mobile device. 

Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC) are designed to protect individuals from biological hazards while providing a clean work surface. To provide a clean environment inside the cabinet, a vertical laminar airflow pulls air from the bench surface down and is exhausted either out the top of the cabinet or back down into the bench area through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. Particulates or potential biological hazards are removed from the air by the HEPA filter. Chemical fumes are not removed through a HEPA filter in a BSC and therefore chemicals that release chemical fume should be manipulated in a chemical hood.

When to use a BSC?

BSC should be used when processing biological materials that have the potential for biological aerosols to be created or when working with pathogens that can be airborne transmitted.  

Safe Operations of a BSC

Below is some general information regarding the use of BSC in a laboratory setting, however, the information is not all-encompassing and does not supersede additional or laboratory-specific operations.

  1. Never work in a BSC with the ultraviolet (UV) sterilizer light on.
    • NOTE: this can cause damage to both your skin and eyes.
  2. Before working in a BSC turn on the blower and lights to ensure proper airflow.
  3. Decontaminate the interior of the BSC with the appropriate disinfectant and decontaminate using 70% ethanol before conducting any work. 
    • Ensure all items being placed in the BSC are decontaminated with 70% ethanol.
  4. Avoid disrupting the airflow in the BSC by working away from the inside edges of the vents and refrain from creating rapid movements in and out of the BSC.
  5. Avoid using a Bunsen burner inside the BSC and use alternative methods (i.e., pre-sterilized equipment) as needed. 
  6. Decontaminate the interior of the BSC with the appropriate disinfectant and decontaminate using 70% ethanol after conducting any work, then turn on the UV light. 

Annual BSC Certification and Repairs

Annual BSC certification must be completed to provide the necessary protection to the operators and the environment around the BSC. Operations cannot be conducted if the BSC is expired. The certification label must be on the BSC with the most recent inspection date. If your BSC cabinet certification is expired contact your Resource Manager to schedule a recertification. If a BSC is repaired or moved, it must be recertified before any work is conducted and even if the certification is not expired.

Purchasing a New BSC

Before purchasing a new BSC for a Cal State LA laboratory, please contact RMEHS to conduct a risk assessment and ensure all safety precautions are in place.

A centrifuge is a common piece of equipment found throughout all laboratory spaces but can be dangerous if not used properly or maintained. The greatest hazards when operating a centrifuge occur when processing materials. The safety instructions below will help address potential hazards for managing the risks when using a centrifuge. Before a new user operates a centrifuge, ensure they read any operating or instruction manuals and have the Principal Investigator (PI) instruct proper operation.

Standard Guidelines

The following information is best practices when using laboratory equipment, but by no means is all-encompassing and should be used in addition to laboratory-specific instructions.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s operating or instruction manual.
  • Develop a Standard Operting Procedure (SOP) for proper use.
  • Ensure the rotor in operation is rated for the maximum speed needed.
  • Ensure correct adaptors are being used (if needed).
  • Always balance samples within the rotor.
  • Secure the lid and any other locking mechanisms.
  • NEVER open the lid while the rotor is spinning.
  • If a spill occurs, unplug the centrifuge and clean the spill with the appropriate cleaner or disinfectant.
  • Never move the centrifuge while operating.


  • Refer to the owner’s manual for maintenance.
  • Inspect rotors for fatigue. Never used expired or maximum runs.
  • Inspect rotors for corrosion. Corrosion can weaken the rotor and should be replaced.
  • Never clean the rotor or rotor parts with wire brushes.
  • Do not use alkaline detergents or cleaning solutions on aluminum parts.
  • Inspect the centrifuge for cracks, discoloration, and any other abnormalities. If found, contact the manufacturer for further instructions. 

Biohazardous Waste

red biohazardous sharp containers with black disposable gloves

The County of Los Angeles and the State of California laws strictly regulate the proper packaging and disposal of biological waste from Cal State LA. Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety (RMEHS) provides regulatory oversight for Cal State LA in the management, packing, and disposal of all hazardous waste streams, including biological waste.

  • Infectious agents, cultures Petri dishes.
  • Waste materials from spores, viruses, and bacteria.
  • Contaminated paper products (towels, Kim wipes, bench paper, etc.).
  • Contaminated plastic products (Eppendorf tubes, falcon tubes, etc.) .
  • Contaminated gloves (latex, nitrile, and vinyl).  

Liquid biohazardous Waste: 

Liquid biohazardous waste is a biological liquid mixture that has been deactivated with a 10% bleach solution for a minimum of 30 minutes.  This type of waste can be discharged into the sewer system upon completion of time in the bleach.

Dry Biological Waste:

Containment of dry biological waste must:

  • Be placed in a rigid container with a self-opening lid (foot pedal or sensor activated)
  • Have the universal biohazard symbol on all sides (top and all 4 vertical sides of the container)
  • Be double-bagged red biohazard bags inside the biohazard container with a campus generator label on the exterior bag.
  • Be separated between biohazardous (non-tissue) and pathological (tissue) waste streams.
  • Not contain any liquid.
  • Use appropriate biohazardous waste bags

More information can be found in our Biowaste Disposal Guide.

All red biohazard bags and sharps containers must go directly from the biohazardous container to the freezer labeled with a biohazard symbol located in Science Hall 1, Room 102, Science Hall 2, Room 157A, or at the ELB Room 105. Red bags should be tied up and NOT left unattended outside the rigid waste container. Bags containing pathological waste must be taped with black tape at the top of the bag to designate the difference between pathological waste and biohazard waste.  Sharps containers must be sealed and we prefer when the containers are duct tapped for added safety for our team. SH&S is responsible for retrieving biological waste and properly disposing of it.


Any instrument, object, or device can puncture or cut a biohazardous bag or skin. 

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Microscope slides
  • Needles (hypodermic, syringes, or lancelets)
  • Broken glassware
  • Blades (razors, scalpels)

Sharps container must adhere to the following specification:

The container must be, labeled with a universal biohazardous symbol, be puncture resistant, rigid, sealable, and be able to be transported. Sharps must not exceed ¾ capacity, full sharp containers should be placed in an appropriate dry hazardous waste container. RMEHS is responsible for retrieving biological waste and properly disposing of it.

If you anticipate sharp containers to be contaminated with chemicals or radiation, please call RMEHS for proper instruction on waste management at 323-343-3531.

Proper Biohazard Bag Tying Method

proper biohazard bag tying method
Proper biohazard bag tying method using the 'Swan' method. Bags can either be zip-tied closed or hand-tied. Biohazard bags should never be 'rabbit-eared' as a method of closure. 

Informational Posters and Documents