Recommendations for Handling Potential Biohazards

Canadian Conservation Institute

From time to time, CCI staff receive from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada documents and logbooks from air crashes/shipwrecks/train crashes for freezing, freeze-drying, Parylene coating, and separation. Since all or some of this material may have come into contact with human remains and/or body fluids it may present a potential biohazard to the employee(s) handling it; therefore the following procedures are recommended (It should be pointed out that in discussion with the Department of Health & Welfare, the RCMP Central Forensic Laboratory and the Government of Ontario, Centre for Forensic Science, no actual hazard has been identified or symptoms diagnosed). It should also be noted that some aircraft instrumentation contain radioactive material and may present a potential radiation hazard. All CCI employees handling this material should familiarise themselves with these recommendations.

1. Incoming material:

1.1. All material should be checked and monitored for biohazards and/or radiation hazards prior to delivery to CCI. The latter must be checked with radiation monitoring equipment and, if necessary, decontaminated prior to delivery to CCI.

1.2. Material that has become wet should be prefrozen, where possible, prior to its entering CCI. It should not be sitting in a container of water.

1.3. All crash material brought into CCI for treatment/analysis must be bagged in transparent/translucent, leakproof, impermeable bags and clearly labelled by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada as a biohazard using the appropriate WHMIS hazard label. Where possible, items should be individually bagged, or bagged in small quantities, with the contents clearly labelled preferrably using waterproof ink. CCI reserves the right to refuse to handle any material not conforming to this requirement. Material presenting a radiation hazard will not be accepted.

1.4. All crash material brought into CCI for treatment/analysis must enter by the loading bay entrance and be taken immediately to an available freezer unit. The Registrar/Assistant Registrar should be immediately informed of the location of this material.

2. Storage:

2.1. In the interests of security and the need to protect evidence, which may be used in a judicial enquiry, it may be necessary to store this material in one of the two vaults.

2.2. No material should be stored in laboratories, holding areas or vaults unless properly bagged and labelled as a biohazard. Alternative locations, such as fume hoods, refrigerators or freezer units, should be designated.

3. Handling:

3.1. No handling should be carried out without the employee(s) wearing appropriate protective clothing, such as latex surgical gloves and masks, lab coats and aprons. These should all be disposable. Full face protection should be provided if there is any danger of splashing.

3.2. All handling should be restricted to as few employees as necessary. No handling should be carried out by photographers or freeze-drier operators unless requested by the conservator.

3.3. Precautions should be taken to prevent injuries caused by needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments or devices during handling procedures. If a glove is torn or a needlestick or other injury occurs, the glove should be removed and a new glove used as promptly as safety permits. If a skin puncture should occur, inform your supervisor immediately and see the nurse or doctor as soon as possible.

3.4. Any employee having open cuts, sores, exudative lesions, weeping dermatitis, mould allergies or respiratory conditions should be excused handling this material.

3.5. All pregnant employees should be excused handling this material.

4. After Handling:

4.1. All instruments and surfaces contaminated during procedures should be decontaminated with an appropriate chemical germicide or disinfectant, such as 10% sodium hypochlorite (Javex). Note: Do not use bleach solutions in any areas pertaining to archeological material without first consulting with archeology lab staff. Chlorides contained in bleaching solutions will corrode metal artifacts.

4.2. After handling, all protective clothing should be disposed of and all handlers must wash their hands thoroughly with an appropriate chemical germicide or soap and water.

5. Photography:

[Not applicable here; relates specifically to CCI]

6. Health Surveillance

6.1. Employees should participate in an occupational health surveillance programme.


Lisa Bazzul
Health & Welfare Canada, Medical Services Branch

Lorne Blunt
Photo Analyst, Centre for Forensic Science, Government of Ontario

N. Campagna
Director, Occupational & Environmental Health Services, Health & Welfare Canada, Ontario Region

Bev Campbell
Nurse Consultant, Bureau of Communicable Disease Epidemiology, Health & Welfare Canada

Sandy Cocksedge
Senior Advisor, Environmental Health Surveillance and Sanitation, Health & Welfare Canada

Maureen Drost
Toxicologist, RCMP Central Forensic Laboratory, Toxicology Section

Catherine Gilmour
Document Examiner, RCMP Central Forensic Laboratory, Document Section

Mary Ellen Kennedy
Health & Welfare Canada, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Chief, Division of Biosafety

Charles Moore
Industrial Hygienist, Health & Welfare Canada, Occupational Medicine & Hazards Investigation, Technical Support Group


Ashton, John, "Some radiation Hazards in Aircraft in Museums", in: Symposium 91. Saving the Twentieth Century. The Degradation and Conservation of Modern Materials. Abstracts. Ottawa: Communications Canada, 1991, p.38.

Health & Welfare Canada, & Medical Research Council of Canada, Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines, Ottawa: Supply & Services Canada, 1990, ISBN 0-662-17695-2.

Health & Welfare Canada, "Update: Universal Precautions for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B Virus, and Other Bloodborne Pathogens in Health-Care Settings", in: Canada Diseases Weekly Report, Health & Welfare Canada, July 9, 1988, vol. 14-27, pp. 117-122, ISSN 0382-232X.

Health & Welfare Canada, "Universal Precautions", in: Canada Diseases Weekly Report, Health & Welfare Canada, February 4, 1989, vol.15-5, pp. 23-28, ISSN 0382-232X.

Health & Welfare Canada, "Recommendations for Prevention of HIV Transmission in Health-Care Settings", in: Canada Diseases Weekly Report Supplement, Health & Welfare Canada, November 1987, vol. 13S3, pp.1-10.

Telephone discussions with those listed in Acknowledgements.

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