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Standard Precautions

Standard Precautions are a minimum set of practices for research and healthcare settings developed to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious agents contained in human samples. The major premise of Standard Precautions is to handle all human body fluids as potentially infectious (including samples derived from blood, urine, saliva, feces, etc). At Cornell, these practices extend to all primate samples, excluding sweat. 

Standard Precautions include the use of hand washing and appropriate PPE to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous materials. Standard Precautions involve the consistent use of BSL2 practices.

Prioritize Health

If performing studies with human participants or with blood and other potentially infectious materials, reducing transmission of diseases is a top priority, regardless of diagnosis or presumed infection status.

Practice Proper Hygiene 

Disease spreads often through a lack of proper hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer. Hand washing should occur regularly throughout the day, including prior to leaving the lab, after restroom use, after having physical interactions with research participants, and after sneezing or coughing.

Use Proper Waste Streams 

Discard contaminated materials through designated waste channels. Refer to the Biological Waste page for additional details on identifying these streams.

Perform Routine Sanitation 

Maintain a clean workspace to prevent the risk of exposure and transmission of infectious agents. Regularly disinfect personal lab spaces, reusable equipment, and commonly touched surfaces.

Treat All Human Material as Infectious 

Disease spreads by direct contact with sick individuals or infectious materials, or through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. By using universal precautions and treating all materials as infectious, the likelihood of exposure to an infectious agent is reduced.

Wear Appropriate PPE & Clothing 

Use the standard precaution of wearing gloves and lab coat for direct contact with research animals, chemicals, or biological materials. All personnel must wear long pants and closed-toe shoes when in a research laboratory. Be cautious selecting sneakers. These shoes often have a mesh top which does not provide much protection.

Things to Avoid

  • Do not eat, drink, or apply cosmetics in a research setting – eating, drinking, and applying cosmetics are strictly prohibited in a research area. These actions can increase the risk of exposure to a hazardous material through either ingestion or direct contact to the mucus mucous membranes.
  • When performing human research, avoid visibly ill subjects – When possible, reschedule appointments with study participants if they are ill. Interacting with ill participants increases the risk of exposure to infectious diseases.

Additional Resources: