Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Autoclave Use and Verification Program




This program establishes requirements for:

  • ensuring all potentially infectious materials and other biohazardous waste generated through research and teaching activities is effectively decontaminated prior to disposal;
  • ensuring decontamination of materials is verified using standard and approved procedures; and
  • protecting the health and safety of citizens and the environment of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


This program applies to all autoclaves (floor and tabletop models) used to decontaminate biohazardous waste. This includes:

  • Waste potentially infectious or harmful to humans (i.e., infectious waste) - Biological waste that is hazardous because of its physical and/or biological nature. All waste that contains infectious material or which, because of its biological nature, may be harmful to humans is included. This type of waste is typically generated in facilities designated Biosafety Level (BSL) 1-3, Animal Biosafety Level (ABSL) 1-3, or Arthropod Containment Level (ACL) 1-3.
  • Waste potentially infectious or harmful to animals or plants - Biological waste that is hazardous because of its physical and/or biological nature and may be pathogenic or harmful to animals or plants. This waste is typically generated in greenhouses or plant growth facilities designated Plant Biosafety Levels 1, 2, or 3 (BSL-P) or in animal research facilities.
  • Waste potentially harmful to the environment - Biological waste that is hazardous because of its physical and/or biological nature and may be harmful to the environment. This waste may be generated in any type of facility.

Note: Performance verification is highly recommended for autoclaves used to sterilize media, reusable glassware, and medical devices, or decontamination of other biological waste not considered infectious or harmful to humans, animals, or plants. This is considered a best practice and improves the quality and reliability of research data and laboratory operations.

Program Overview

This program emphasizes:

  • Appropriate use and management of autoclaves
  • Autoclave performance verification
  • Training on:
    • Safe autoclave use
    • Cycle choices and use
    • Load configuration
    • Performance verification methods
    • Documenting autoclave use, maintenance, and training


Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS)

  • Provide routine evaluation of autoclaves and their facilities, to include:
    • an assessment of program management and training;
    • a review of all documents related to autoclave use and verification; and
    • confirmation of pressure vessel certification by the Virginia state boiler inspector for autoclaves requiring such certification.
  • Consult with departments, responsible technicians, and autoclave users on proper autoclave use and management, verification procedures, and development of training programs.

Colleges/Departments/Research Centers

  • Designate a Responsible Technician for every autoclave used to decontaminate infectious and biohazardous waste. If an autoclave is shared by two or more colleges/departments/centers, then these entities shall mutually designate a Responsible Technician. The role of Responsible Technician may be rotated between entities.
  • Ensure that all Responsible Technicians and autoclave users are trained and have the necessary support to implement an autoclave use and verification program.
  • Manage preventative maintenance contracts and service repairs.

Responsible Technicians

  • Provide autoclave-specific training directly and schedule program management training, as needed, through EHSS.
  • Develop and maintain standard operating procedures for proper autoclave use and management.
  • Ensure that all documentation is current and accurate.
  • Monitor autoclave use.
  • Serve as the contact person and primary resource for answering questions and resolving problems related to the autoclave.
  • Ensure all verification testing is performed and maintain assoicated testing supplies.
  • Maintain supply of autoclave bags.
  • Ensure user log sheets, cycle charts, safety warnings, operational notices, and contact information for responsible parties are posted near the autoclave.
Page Last updated: March 2008

Contact Information

Charlotte Waggoner, University Biosafety Officer

Chris Wakley, Associate Biosafety Officer

Anna Kroner, Associate Biosafety Officer