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Chapter 9: Transporting and Shipping Biohazards

At times, it may be necessary to transfer biohazards between labs, whether across the hall, campus, or to another institution. Depending on the shipping method, distance of transfer, and type of biohazard, different rules and regulations apply. Ultimately, if you need guidance or assistance in transferring biohazards, please contact the biosafety office. Current contact information can be found in the Biosafety section of the EHS website (


1.1. Secondary Containment: A leak-proof, durable container with a tight-fitting lid that is used to provide an additional level of containment around a primary container of biohazardous material.

1.2. Shipping: In the context of WVU’s Biosafety manual, shipping refers to the transfer of a biohazard from one lab to another using a courier service.

1.3. Transporting: In the context of WVU’s Biosafety manual, transporting refers to the transfer of a biohazard from one lab to another on campus by the PI, biosafety office, or a member of the lab.


2.1. Transporting Biohazards

Biohazards may be transported between labs on campus. Secondary containment is required for transport. Secondary containment must be a leak-proof, durable container with a tight fitting lid. It cannot be made of glass or other non-shatter proof material. It must be marked with the Universal Biohazard Symbol and labeled “Lab use only-No Food or Drink”. Some examples of acceptable secondary containment include plastic coolers, plastic storage containers/totes, or plastic storage bags (Figure 1).

                              Figure 1.  Types of Secondary Containment for Transportation of Biohazards

                                  Examples of Secondary Containment

Packing biohazard samples for transportation

Close the primary container housing the biohazard with a lid and then the lid, and wrap the lid with parafilm. Parafilm or foil alone is not a suitable lid for transportation.

Load the primary container(s) into the secondary container and include absorbent material, such as paper towel or absorbent pad. The amount of absorbent material must be sufficient to contain the liquid biohazard should the primary container break.

Close and seal the secondary container.

NOTE: Samples that must be transported refrigerated may include ice packs or ice. DO NOT use dry ice in a sealed secondary container because of the potential for increased pressure inside and the risk of explosion of the secondary container.

If the sample is to be transported between buildings on campus, generate a List of Contents for the package (see Figure 2 for an example of a List of Contents). The List of Contents should also include contact name and phone number of a responsible party, in the event the package is lost or misplaced.

                                                                                    Figure 2. List of Contents
                               Example of a List of Contents document in table format.

If the sample is being transported by vehicle and contains known BSL2 biohazards, then it must be transported in a state car. Samples that most likely do not contain BSL2 biohazards or other known infectious materials may be transported in private vehicles by a member of the responsible lab.

                CAUTION: Biohazard and potentially infectious material sample transportation is PROHIBITED on public                      transit, such as the PRT or University bus services.  

2.2. Shipping Biohazards

The shipping of Biohazards and Infectious Substances is regulated by the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods - Model Regulations. Under the regulations, Biohazards and Infectious Substances are classified as division 6.2-Infectious Substances. Within the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulates the shipment of Infectious Substances.

Biohazards must be shipped using a courier service that permits transportation of biohazards. Contact the courier service prior to shipping to ensure that biohazard shipment is permitted.

The DOT and IATA require that personnel responsible for shipping infectious substances are trained on proper shipping regulations prior to shipping infectious substances. Training should include proper packing and labelling requirements.

The Biosafety Office is trained and meets the requirements to pack and ship infectious substances. Contact the Biosafety Office for assistance in shipping infectious substances, prior to making arrangements for shipping. Current contact information can be found under Biosafety on the EHS website.

               The DOT provides guidance on proper packaging and labelling of infectious substance for shipping at the following                   link.

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Continue to Chapter 10: Personal Protective Equipment for Biohazards

Version History:

Revision Control Table



Revised by


Initial version

Matt Stinoski


 Added link to DOT guidance for packaging and labelling for shipping.

 Matt Stinoski