Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Incident / Exposure Response and Reporting

What is a reportable lab incident?

  • Reportable lab incidents are unwanted occurrences for which you must:
    1. contact the appropriate response providers FIRST (if there is a serious injury, major toxic spill, etc.), and THEN
    2. report the incident to EHS.
  • Examples of reportable lab incidents:
    • accident
    • injury
    • spill – chemical, biological or other hazardous material
    • serious lab equipment failure
    • facilities failure (HVAC, plumbing, gas line, etc.)
    • fire
    • security breach or failure
    • theft
    • threat
    • loss of containment/ release into the environment of biohazardous or recombinant material
    • exposure to biohazardous agents/materials, or to hazardous chemicals
    • non-compliance with regulations
    • any combination of these

What is the role of EHS when reportable lab incidents occur?

IMPORTANT: EHS is not a first response unit. Responders who provide medical aid, firefighting expertise, policing or security enforcement, or large-scale hazardous spill mitigation must be contacted first in emergencies, according to the nature of the emergency.

The role of EHS is to provide:

  • subject matter/ safety experts in biological, chemical, radiological, electrical, physical and other hazard areas who can advise and consult with responders.
  • incident investigations.
  • required reporting to federal and state agencies.
  • an interface with regulatory agencies during incident response and follow-up.

Lab Injury or Medical Emergency – First Steps to Take

  • Give priority to addressing injuries or medical emergencies, then direct efforts to containment and cleanup needs. If the situation is life-threatening, treatment must be obtained in the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital; DIAL 911.
  • Elapsed time can be critical after exposure to infectious agents or chemicals. Act quickly on behalf of the victim so that prophylactic medications for pathogens, or proper treatment for chemical exposure can be given as soon as possible to lessen infection risk or toxic effects.

Exposure Response –First Steps to Take

  1. Immediately inform coworkers of the exposure incident.
  2. Remove PPE and provide immediate care to the exposure site:
    • Wash exposed skin/ wound with soap and water for 15 minutes.
    • Flush eyes/mucous membranes with fresh water for 15 minutes.
    • Call 911 if serious injury has occurred; administer first aid as needed.
  3. Tell your supervisor about the exposure incident as soon as possible, even if it was a potential exposure.
  4. Visit a medical provider or Emergency Department for evaluation within 1-2 hours of the incident. Inform the medical provider about the specific material to which you have been (or may have been) exposed so that any appropriate post-exposure treatment can be considered and/or implemented.

Reporting of Incidents and Exposures Involving Biohazards

  1. As soon as any initial response is complete and the incident is stable, immediately notify:
    1. The Lab Director and/or Lab Manager
    2. The Animal Facility Manager/ Greenhouse Manager (if applicable)
    3. A Biosafety Officer (BSO) by telephone (preferred) or email.
    Biosafety OfficersTelephoneEmail
    Charlotte Waggoner540-231-5864ren@vt.edu
    Anna Kroner540-231-1122akroner@vt.edu
    Chris Wakley540-231-3361cwakley@vt.edu
    Shilpa Soni352-231-0976shilpa@vt.edu
  2. The BSO will acknowledge receipt of notification by communicating to the reporting person via phone or email, and will begin notifying other appropriate personnel and/or agencies.
  3. IMPORTANT: If the incident involves a known exposure to recombinant material (e.g., rDNA/ synthetic nucleic acids/ transgenic or genetically modified organisms/ select agents), the BSO must inform NIH and/or CDC without delay, thus IMMEDIATE reporting is required.
  4. The reporting person and the supervisor of the facility (e.g., Lab Director/ Lab Manager/ Animal Facility Manage/ Greenhouse Manager) must complete a VT Lab Incident Report and submit it to the BSO via email (preferred) or campus mail (MS 0423) as soon as possible.
  5. BSO will acknowledge receipt of this report via email.
  6. If an injury or exposure has occurred, an Employer's Accident Report must also be completed immediately by the supervisor per directions found on the link webpage.
  7. If the supervisor does not complete the report in a timely manner, injured/exposed individuals are encouraged to complete the Employer’s Accident Report themselves.

Further Information and Guidance:

University Biosafety Manual
EHS Biosafety Group