Histology Sample Handling Precautions

Sample Handling Precautions (last updated 31 Oct 2011)

For any specimen that poses a known or potential hazard to any person handling the specimen, the type of hazard must be clearly indicated in the clinical details section of the request form. The specimen container must also be labelled accordingly. Such hazards include: biological hazards (e.g. HIV, hepatitis, TB) or radiological hazards.
If the patient is a possible vCJD positive or a prion positive case please inform the laboratory prior to sending any sample.  Please speak to a senior member of staff as listed in contacts.
Before a sample is transferred to Histopathology, the lid of the pot must be securely closed.  The pot must be transported in a sealed bag with the form attached outside this and then all placed into a transport carrying case.  The form and the pot must not be kept in the same bag in case of leakage.  Multiple small specimens may be bagged together in a second larger plastic bag.
Formal saline contains formaldehyde, which is both harmful and irritant and should be handled with care.  Suitable protective clothing, eye protection and gloves should be worn when handling it or samples that have been in contact with it.  It should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
The vapour is harmful and should a large spillage (more than one litre) occur the area should be cleared of all personnel and visitors immediately and the Histology laboratory called for advice and assistance.  For smaller spillages formalin neutralising granules are available from Histopathology.  The spillage may also contain a biological hazard associated with the specimen.
Never attempt to clean up a spillage without knowing the risks and the precautions to take.

Fresh unfixed specimens that have spilled/leaked should be dealt with as if potentially hazardous and Cellular Pathology should be called for advice.