Environmental, Health and Safety Services


Biological Material

Tissue, fluid, blood, OPIM from human or animal sources. Also, cultures of microorganisms and cell lines.

Bloodborne Pathogen

Pathogenic organisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Clinical Laboratory

A workplace where diagnostic or other screening procedures are performed on blood or other potentially infectious materials.

Contaminated Sharps

Any contaminated object that can penetrate the skin including, but not limited to, needles, scalpels, broken glass, and exposed ends of dental wires.


The chemical or physical destruction or removal of microorganisms to a lower level, not necessarily zero.


The chemical or physical treatment that destroys most vegetative microbes (or viruses), but not spores, in or on inanimate objects/substances.

Engineering Controls

Equipment or devices that isolate or remove the pathogenic hazard from the workplace. Examples include: sharps disposal containers, self-sheathing needles, equipment slash guards, biosafety cabinets, etc.

Exposure Incident

A specific incident in which potentially infectious material contacts the employee in one of the following ways:

  • eye
  • mouth
  • other mucous membrane
  • non-intact skin surface
  • puncture/stick/cut with sharp contaminated object

Human Pathogens

Pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood, tissues, fluids, or OPIM and can cause disease in humans. See Appendix B for pathogens that employees of Virginia Tech may be exposed to. The listed pathogens are either common in a university setting, endemic to SWVA or being manipulated in a research lab on campus

Infectious Agent

A viable microorganism, such as a bacterium, virus, rickettsia, parasite, or fungus, that is known or reasonably believed to cause disease in humans or animals.

Laboratory Acquired Infection

Any infection acquired through laboratory or laboratory-related activities regardless whether the infection is symptomatic or asymptomatic in nature.

Occupational Exposure

Reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties.

Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM)

The following body fluids:

  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • synovial fluid
  • pleural fluid
  • pericardial fluid
  • peritoneal fluid
  • amniotic fluid
  • saliva in dental procedures
  • any fluid mixed with blood
  • any unknown body fluid

The following tissues:

  • unfixed tissue
  • unfixed organs

The following research media:

  • Pathogen containing cell culture
  • Pathogen containing tissue/organ culture
  • Pathogen containing culture media

Principal Investigator

A Virginia Tech employee responsible for the operations and associated researchers of a laboratory or group of laboratories.

Regulated Medical Waste

A waste stream which is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality and must be disposed of through EHSS, even if it has been autoclaved or treated with another form of decontamination. The particulars of the waste stream are:

  • Cultures and stock of microorganisms and biologicals. Discarded cultures, stocks, specimens, vaccines and associated items likely to contain organisms likely to be pathogenic to healthy humans.
  • Blood and blood products. Wastes consisting of human blood, human blood products and items contaminated by human blood.
  • Human tissues and other anatomical wastes. All human anatomical wastes and all wastes that are human tissues, organs, body parts, or body fluids.
  • Sharps. It is university protocol to include all sharps in the regulated medical waste stream. That is, ALL hollow-bore needles, pipettes, and glassware from biological labs or medical settings.
  • Some animal carcasses, body parts, bedding, and related wastes. Animal carcasses, body parts, bedding, and related wastes if the animal has been intentionally infected with pathogenic organisms and are likely to be contaminated.

Regulated Medical Waste EXEMPTIONS


The following waste streams are not subject to the requirements of regulated medical waste regulations when dispersed among other solid wastes and not accumulated separately:

  • Used products for personal hygiene, such as diapers, facial tissues and sanitary napkins.

Material, not including sharps, containing small amounts of blood or body fluids, but containing no free flowing or unabsorbed liquid(Band-Aids).


The reduction of microbial load on an inanimate surface to a “safe” public health level.


The total destruction of all living organisms.

Universal Precautions

An approach to infection control, where ALL body fluids and individuals are treated as known positives for HIV and HBV. Universal precautions (or standard precautions) must be utilized when working with any potentially infectious material whether from human, animal, or microorganism culture sources.

Work Practice Controls

Procedures that reduce the likelihood of exposure through the manner in which tasks are performed.


Zoonotic Diseases

Diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between (or are shared by) animals and humans. See Appendix C for the list of diseases of concern for Virginia Tech employees.