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Biological Safety

Program Overview Biosafety Program icon

The Dartmouth College Biosafety Program is dedicated to promoting a safe, ethical, and environmentally-friendly research environment.  We support the advancement of Dartmouth biological research by:  

  • Assisting our scientists in the adherence to all federal, state, and local requirements for biological research
  • Providing training, risk assessment consultations, and laboratory safety audits
  • Developing institutional and lab specific policies on the safe handling of biohazardous materials, including engineering and work practice controls, biosafety levels, and personal protective equipment requirements

Our priorities are to:

  1. Prevent laboratory acquired infections (LAIs)
  2. Facilitate research compliance
  3. Protect the environment
  4. Promote a positive culture around laboratory safety



August 29, 2014

Attention NIH Funded Investigators!

In light of the recent lapses in biosafety practices involving federal laboratories, the National Security Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy sent a joint memo to all federal departments and agencies involved in life-sciences research urging them to take immediate and longer-term steps to address the underlying causes of the incidents and strengthening overall biosafety and biosecurity at federal facilities.  Click here for the NSC/OSTP memo.

In response, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, released a statement on August 27, 2014 designating September as National Biosafety Stewardship Month.

In the month of September, NIH laboratories will, and grantee institutions and/or contractors are encouraged to, do the following:

  • Reexamine current policies and procedures for biosafety practices and oversight to ascertain whether they require modification to optimize their effectiveness;
  • Conduct inventories of infectious agents and toxins in all laboratories to ensure that the institution has a record of which infectious agents and toxins are being utilized, has documentation that those materials are properly stored under the appropriate containment conditions, and has documentation that cites the party responsible for appropriate stewardship of the materials; and
  • Reinforce biosafety training of investigators, laboratory staff, and members of IBCs to include:
    • Reexamining training materials and practices being utilized by the institution;
    • Updating materials as appropriate; and
    • Ascertaining the appropriate frequency of training and conduct training when the interval between training or other considerations warrant it.

What do you need to do?

1.  It's time to clean shop and create/update an inventory - do you know what's in your lab's freezers? 

Dartmouth researchers are responsible for what is in their laboratories.  To honor the National Biosafety Stewardship Month, please discuss this topic with your lab members this month and update your lab's inventories of potentially infectious agents, toxins, and/or poisons.  It not only keeps you aware of the agents for which you are ultimately responsible, but it will also help create space in your freezers by getting rid of those tubes you no longer need.  Freezer clean-outs are good laboratory practice, not just because the NIH is asking us to do this, but because they help keep your freezers running well and efficiently, thereby decreasing the risk of freezer meltdown and sample loss.

2.  As part of your inventory process, please be sure to update your lab's Live Usage Summary in BioRAFT.  The Institutional Biosafety Committee uses this information to do a risk assessment and to give IBC approvals for the biological research you do.  The IBC also uses this information as an institutional inventory of what is on campus in the event of reporting to federal officials.  This information is also used in cases of laboratory accidents.  Therefore, it is critically important that your BioRAFT Live Usage Summary is an accurate display of what is in your lab.  Please contact the Biological Safety Officer if you need help with this process.

More detailed info about the White House and NIH announcements can be found here:


Biological research is any experimental activity involving the following biological agents:

  • Human source materials (includes primary and immortal cell lines, clinical specimens, samples, tissues, etc)
  • Animals and animal source materials
  • Plants and plant source materials
  • Recombinant and synthetic DNA/RNA (including all viral vectors, RNAi technologies, etc), as stipulated by the NIH/Office of Science Policy Guidelines for Research Involving rDNA Molecules
  • Microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions, yeast, algae, rickettsiae, parasites, etc)
  • Biological toxins, allergens


What to do in the event of an injury or potential exposure:

 injury 3 stepsreport injury

Additional Steps to Take After Seeking Medical Attention:

  1. Contact Environmental Health and Safety (603-646-1762). We will assist in the reporting of exposures and determine what steps can be taken to avoid such exposures in the future.
  2. Click the "Report an Injury" link above, complete, and submit the necessary form to Dartmouth Risk Management within 24hours.  Depending on the type of biological exposure, additional reporting may be required.  Contact the Biological Safety Officer for assistance with biological exposures.


For more information, please review the Dartmouth College Exposure Control Plan.


Investigator Responsibilities:

The NIH brochure explaining Principal Investigator responsibilities can be found here.

All institutions that receive NIH funding for research involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules must comply with the NIH Guidelines.  Researchers at institutions that are subject to the NIH Guidelines must comply with the requirements even if their own projects are not funded by NIH.

Dartmouth College principal investigators are expected to conduct research in compliance with federal regulations and according to the institutional policies on the Responsible Conduct of Research


Principal Investigator responsibilities include:

    • Providing laboratory research staff with protocols describing potential biohazards and necessary precautions.
    • Instructing and training laboratory staff in: (i) the practices and techniques required to ensure safety, and (ii) the procedures for dealing with accidents.
    • Informing the laboratory staff of the reasons and provisions for any precautionary medical practices advised or requested (e.g., vaccinations or serum collection).
    • Supervising laboratory staff to ensure that the required safety practices and techniques are employed.
    • Correcting work errors and conditions that may result in the release of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid materials.
    • Ensuring the integrity of physical containment (e.g., biological safety cabinets) and biological containment (e.g., host-vector systems that preclude survival of the agent outside the laboratory).
    • Complying with permit and shipping requirements for recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules.
    • Adhering to Institutional Biosafety Committee-approved emergency plans for handling accidental spills and personnel contamination.


Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC):

ALL biological research conducted at Dartmouth must be reviewed by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) in order to meet NIH, CDC, OSHA, and Institutional Research Compliance requirements.  Registration of your research to the IBC is submitted online through your lab's "Biological Summary" in BioRAFT.  Please click here for instructions on how to submit your research for IBC review and approval and to learn more about the process of IBC approval.  IBC meetings are open to the public.  Please contact the EHS Office for upcoming dates: (603) 646-1762.


IBC Subcommittee for Clinical Gene Transfer (IBC-SCGT):

ALL clinical protocols involving gene transfer research at Dartmouth College must be reviewed by the IBC Subcommittee for Clinical Gene Transfer.  Please click here for instructions on how to submit your research for IBC-SCGT review and approval.


Required Biological Laboratory Training:

BSL-2 (or higher) laboratory personnel are required to complete annual training to comply with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) and the CDC's Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories Handbook (BMBL) (5th Edition, 2007).  This training is required for all biological researchers regardless of prior experience and is an essential piece of ensuring a safe work environment for all research and custodial staff.

Biological safety training (with the exception of biological shipping training - see below) is conducted online using BioRAFT.  Occasionally, BSL-2 classroom training will be scheduled.  To sign-up for classroom training, please contact the Biological Safety Officer.  To check the status of your own training, click here.  For a list of available lab safety training courses, click here


Laboratory Biosafety Audits:

Biosafety audits are a vital part of any safety program as it ensures that all essential safety measures and regulations are followed within the research environment.  They are designed to help labs be "inspection ready" for any unannounced federal inspections.  Aspects of laboratory audits are dependent upon the nature of research in the given area and may include any of the following:

  • Assessing appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Proper use of laboratory equipment (biological safety cabinets, centrifuge, etc)
  • Proper labeling of equipment for the storing/manipulation of biological materials
  • Proper procedures for decontamination of biological waste (solid, liquid, sharps)
  • Presence of life safety devices (eyewash, safety shower, antimicrobial soap, etc)


Please review the Dartmouth Biological Laboratory Audit Checklist to best prepare for your lab's biosafety audit.  Comprehensive biological lab audits will be performed every 3 years (at a minimum) in conjunction with IBC re-review of research.  Lab audits may be conducted more frequently if there is a significant change in research (new biohazardous agents or manipulations), and/or if incidents are found during an audit.  Please contact the Biological Safety Officer if you would like to schedule a lab biosafety audit.


Biosafety Quick Links:


Biosafety Tips:

June 2014 - Vacuum Traps

July 2014 - coming soon


Helpful Resources:

  1. The Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) is a CDC/NIH publication that became the cornerstone of biosafety practices and policies in the United States upon its first publication in 1984.  The BMBL was updated in 2007 (5th Edition) to include additional chapters on the principles and practices of biosafety, risk assessment, agent summary statements, occupational medicine/medical surveillance, decontamination and biosecurity.  The BMBL outlines the microbiological practices, safety equipment, and facility safeguards that protect laboratory workers, the environment, and the public from exposure to infectious microorganisms that are handled and stored in the laboratory and is the basis for Dartmouth's biological research safety policies and guidelines.
  2. The NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic DNA was updated in 2013.  All research at Dartmouth, regardless of whether it is funded directly by the NIH, must comply to the NIH regulations on rDNA use.
  3. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) is required to be followed by all lab personnel potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
  4. Pathogen Safety Data Sheets and Risk Assessments (Office of Biological Safety at Health Canada's Laboratory Centre for Disease Control) provides for specific safety information on particular infectious substances.
  5. WHO Biological Safety Manual (3rd Edition) First published in 1983, the Laboratory Biosafety Manual has provided practical guidance on biosafety techniques for use in laboratories at all levels.  For this new edition, the manual has been extensively revised and expanded. The manual now covers risk assessment and safe use of recombinant DNA technology, and provides guidelines for the commissioning and certification of laboratories. Laboratory biosecurity concepts are introduced, and the latest regulations for the transport of infectious substances are reflected. Material on safety in health-care laboratories, previously published elsewhere by WHO, has also been incorporated.



For specific questions or to learn more about our Biological Safety Program, please email:

Brenda Petrella, PhD

Biological Safety Officer 

Environmental Health & Safety

(603) 646-9790   


Last Updated: 8/30/14