Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Biosafety for Researchers Program




This program has been developed to:

  • protect all laboratory personnel from exposure to biological agents that have the potential to cause disease in humans;
  • prevent environmental contamination;
  • protect experimental materials;
  • describe the services provided by EHSS to assist university laboratory operations;
  • specify the university policies, procedures, and requirements for safe handling and use of biological agents; and
  • ensure compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations/guidelines.


This program addresses all biological agents that are known to, or suspected to, cause disease in humans.


This program applies to all personnel working on a laboratory-scale in university laboratories. This may include:

  • faculty;
  • classified staff;
  • paid graduate students/post docs; and
  • work study students.

Work areas this program may apply to include:

  • microbiology and molecular biology laboratories/facilities;
  • biotechnology laboratories/facilities;
  • animal care facilities;
  • veterinary teaching hospital;
  • agricultural research operations; and
  • experimental center operations (e.g., Equine Medical Center)


Laboratory Personnel

Lab personnel under the direct supervision of a Principal Investigator, Researcher, or Lab Supervisor have the responsibility to:

  • be familiar with program requirements;
  • wear and properly maintain any personal protective equipment necessary to perform each assigned task;
  • use engineering controls and safety equipment properly;
  • follow good personal and laboratory hygiene practices;
  • participate in all required training;
  • read, understand, and sign off on laboratory-specific procedures;
  • inform their supervisor if any deficiencies are noted in the laboratory facility, equipment, and procedures;
  • ensure all excess hazardous materials used for research under their supervision is promptly disposed of;
  • report to their supervisor any incident that results in injury or exposure to a hazardous substance; and
  • know what to do in case of an emergency.

Principal Investigators, Researchers, Supervisors

Principal Investigators, Researchers, and Supervisors shall assume responsibility for the daily operations of a laboratory or group of laboratories. Principal Investigators, Researchers, and Supervisors shall:

  • be familiar with program requirements;
  • ensure all laboratory work is conducted in accordance with this program and all applicable federal, state, and local regulations/guidelines regarding biological safety in laboratories;
  • select appropriate control practices for handling hazardous substances;
  • prepare incident response procedures;
  • prepare research-specific policies and procedures;
  • ensure all laboratory employees are properly trained on the hazards and how to handle hazardous substances in the laboratory;
  • maintain training documentation;
  • ensure that engineering controls and safety equipment is properly maintained;
  • work with the University Biosafety Officer to correct any laboratory deficiencies;
  • conduct regular self-audits; and
  • complete all necessary reports for any incident involving biological agents, bloodborne pathogens, radioactive material, or chemicals and submit it to the University Biosafety Officer for review.

Deans, Directors, Department Heads

Deans, Directors, and Department Heads shall assume overall responsibility for ensuring their respective college/department/center/facility complies with the requirements of this program. Deans/Directors/Department Heads shall:

  • be familiar with the requirements of this program;
  • ensure that Principal Investigators, Researchers, and Supervisors are aware of the requirements of this program; and
  • mandate laboratory participation.

AREC Directors/Superintendents

AREC Directors and Superintendents shall assume the same responsibilities as Deans, Directors, and Department Heads.

University Biosafety Officer

This position shall be the responsibility of EHSS. The University Biosafety Officer shall:

  • assist lab personnel in identifying hazardous operations, establishing safe work practices, and selecting protective equipment and other exposure controls;
  • maintain information on the Biosafety for Researchers website to include guidelines and procedures for safe work practices;
  • develop training programs in conjunction with principal investigators, researchers, and supervisors;
  • act as a liaison between the lab and EHSS' Occupational Safety and Industrial Hygiene division for medical surveillance, hazard monitoring, and respiratory protection services ;
  • act as liaison between Virginia Tech and all federal, state, and local entities regarding biological safety in laboratories;
  • maintain Virginia Tech’s registration with the CDC for Select Agent and Toxin work;
  • report any suspicious use of a biological agent to the CDC and/or state health department;
  • conduct periodic evaluations of research labs using biological agents;
  • consult with lab personnel to evaluate and correct deficiencies in the laboratory;
  • investigate and report to the principal investigator and/or other laboratory supervisors any significant problems with equipment, facilities, and/or safe work practices/procedures; and
  • remain knowledgeable of regulatory and legal requirements associated with the use of biological agents.

University Safety Committees

Virginia Tech supports a number of safety oversight committees comprised of researchers, university officials, and EHSS representatives. A regulatory body requires the majority of committees, but a couple have been established based upon identified needs of the research community.

  • Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

    The IBC is charged with:

    • reviewing recombinant DNA/RNA research proposals conducted at, or sponsored by, Virginia Tech for compliance with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines;
    • uman Risk Group 2 or 3 agents (including human, NHP, and mammalian blood, blood products, cells, and unfixed tissue);
    • Toxins of biological origin;
    • Select agents and toxins; and
    • Plant and animal pathogens/products requiring a USDA permit
  • Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

    The IACUC is responsible for:

    • reviewing proposed uses of animals in research, testing, or education;
    • evaluating programs and animal activity areas; and
    • inspecting facilities used to house animals.
  • Radiation Safety Committee (RSC)

    The RSC is charged with:

    • reviewing and approving research projects utilizing radiation or radioactive materials;
    • establishing institutional policies on radiation safety; and
    • monitoring existing programs.
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB)

    The IRB is responsible for:

    • reviewing and approving research projects utilizing human subjects (including nonviable fetuses, fetal material, and the placenta); and
    • monitoring research using human subjects.
Page Last updated: February 13, 2009

Contact Information

Charlotte Waggoner, University Biosafety Officer

Chris Wakley, Associate Biosafety Officer

Anna Kroner, Associate Biosafety Officer