U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Laboratory Orientation and Testing of Body Fluids and Tissues for Forensic Analysts


Home  |  Glossary  |  Resources  |  Help  |  Contact Us  |  Course Map

Image of person in hazmat suit
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Numerous hazards exist in forensic laboratories. The risks associated with these are reduced or eliminated if proper procedures, practices, and precautions are followed. The documentation of, and adherence to, practices and procedures in a laboratory safety manual is an essential requirement of an effective laboratory safety program.

Laboratory safety programs generally include an overall safety manual, chemical hygiene, and bloodborne pathogen plans.

Laboratory safety can be addressed through policy, practice, and use of safety equipment. Laboratory safety needs should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to assess the need for policy changes and appropriate safety equipment. Laboratory safety equipment may include, but is not limited to:

  • Safety Hoods
  • Respirators
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Safety showers and eye washes

Safety Hoods

Laboratory safety hoods are designed to prevent or minimize the escape of air contaminants into the laboratory. Chemical fume hoods provide a safe environment for working with chemicals and can be equipped with various filters that handle different categories of chemicals. Biological safety cabinets are designed to work exclusively with biological materials; they are equipped with HEPA filters (of specific pore size) that prevent the release of biological agents into the surrounding laboratory areas.


Respirators have two primary functions: 

  • to remove contaminants from the air
  • to supply respirable air from another source

Respirators responsible for contamination removal include gas masks that filter out chemicals and particulate respirators that filter out airborne particles.

Those respirators that supply respirable air include:

  • compressed air respirators that provide air from a remote source
  • self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) that include their own air supply

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes: gloves, gowns, lab coats, face shields, masks, and eye protection.  Laboratories should define the tasks that require the use of PPE(s).

After identifying the tasks that require these types of precautions, the laboratory should provide all of the following:

  • annual training
  • necessary PPE(s)
  • safety program that encourages the usage of PPEs to prevent and/or limit unnecessary biological or chemical exposures.

Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations

Safety showers and eye wash stations provide on the spot decontamination.  It is essential to look beyond the use of goggles, face shields, and other personal protective equipment since accidental chemical exposures can occur even with a well-established safety program. Emergency showers and eyewash stations are a necessary backup to minimize the effects of accidental exposures.

Review the Laboratory Safety Programs course.

Back Forward