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Specimen Handling & Transport

This document is written to establish the procedures for safe specimen handling and transport 

Written by: Jim Hobbs, 7 /28/10 

Last update: 9/23/21 - Unna Edmonds 


To establish the procedures for safe specimen handling and transport 


The handling and transport of blood, urine, saliva and other body substances must be treated as potential sources of hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other microbiological infections as well as COVID-19. The following policy details the required procedures that must be taken to avoid contamination by these types of specimens. Couriers should pass a competency test prior to handling. 


Specimen Handling. Handle all specimens as though they are infectious. The greatest dangers to those health care workers handling and transporting biomedical specimens is the potential for infection from COVID-19, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV viruses. At all times disposable latex gloves will be worn when handling biomedical bags containing specimens. All specimen bags must be properly sealed before being removed from the point of origin.

Specimen Storage. Specimens to be transported must be placed in strong, insulated, tight sealed biohazard containers from the point of origin to final delivery to the appropriate laboratory.

  • Room temperature specimens will be stored in a dedicated, tight sealed biohazard container and will not come into contact with any type of ice pack. 
  • Refrigerated specimens will be stored in a dedicated, tight sealed biohazard container, containing sufficient numbers of frozen ice packs at the bottom of the container to assure the specimens remain in a refrigerated environment. Most specimens require refrigeration unless otherwise specified.
  • Frozen specimens will be stored in a dedicated, tight sealed biohazard container, containing sufficient quantities ( at least 2 pounds) of dry ice to ensure the specimens remain in a frozen condition. Surround the specimen with dry ice.
  • Packing of specimens from point of origin to final destination should be done in a manner that ensures that the integrity of the specimens is not compromised and no contamination occurs. Specimens with different temperature requirements will not be mixed together in the same storage container.

Transport of Specimens

  • Conditions during transportation ofbiohazard specimens must ensure that the integrity of the specimens and the well-being of the couriers transporting the material, the general public, and the environment are preserved.
  • All biohazard specimen bags contained within a biohazard bag will be clearly marked on the outside to the bag with a black marker as to the total number of smaller bags contained within the larger Biohazard bag.
  • Specimen to be transported must be placed in strong, tightly sealed, dedicated biohazard containers during the entire move of the specimens. The biohazard containers with the specimen must be safely secured within the cargo area of the transport vehicle and not be allowed to shift during transport to the laboratory.
  • No specimen should be accepted for transport unless they are satisfactorily sealed and packaged for transport. If problems arise or the courier has concerns about the packing of the specimen, the courier should contact dispatch who can then determine the appropriate course of action. Under no circumstances shall the courier accept any package that contains a specimen that has leaked from its original container.

Specimen Spills

  • A spill kit containing disposable gloves, a cleaning solution, clean up towels and a strong sealable biohazard discard bag will be carried in all courier vehicles used in the transporting of specimens. The dispatch office should be contacted as soon as possible regarding any spillage or damage to specimens or transport container during transportation. 
  • In the event of a specimen spill the courier will immediately notify dispatch or supervisor. The courier will additionally wear appropriate protective body coverings such as gloves and shoe coverings which are included in the spill kit to minimize the possibility of exposure to potential infectious material.
  • Always use the small plastic shovel provided in the spill kit to scoop up spills and/or broken glassware and place them in the disposable biohazard bag provided in the spill kit; never pick up with hands even though gloves are worn.
  • Promptly clean up spills of blood and other potentially infectious materials. Clean and decontaminate all equipment and work surfaces that have been contaminated. Place protective articles soiled with contaminants in a Bio-hazardous trash bag. Wash hands after removing gloves with the germicidal wipes provided in the spill kit and put them in the disposable bag.
  • If Courier is exposed to potentially infectious materials they will fill out a "Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Incident Report"

Vehicle Accidents

  • In the event the vehicle transporting specimens is involved in an accident, call dispatch immediately. Let them know if you have called 911 as a result of someone being hurt, and then give them an assessment of the situation.
  • If anyone is hurt, or the damage to any vehicle appears to render it inoperable, tell dispatch to call in another driver immediately.
  • If specimens have spilled, make sure to direct people away from the area near the spill, and immediately notify an Am-Tran supervisor
  • Clean up spills according to the procedures set forth in Section 4.