Transporting specimens

By: February 20th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

It’s very common for practices to ship blood samples and specimens to full service laboratories for off-site testing. In many cases a satellite practice will want to utilize the full service lab across town, which sounds easy enough, but definitely includes some safe shipping considerations.

Safe ground transportation of specimens to and from laboratories is governed by regulation issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The DOT divides it’s regulations into nine classes, but labs are primarily concerned with Class 6.2 – Infectious Substances and Class 9 – Miscellaneous (which includes dry ice, often used for preservation).

Labs typically purchase packaging materials such as sealable plastic bags and boxes for transporting blood specimens. These labs rely on the fact that the manufacturer has met requirements for these materials; their main duty is to use the correct packaging for the materials being shipped, and to label packages properly.

When lab specimens are transported across a public street or highway they are covered by the DOT requirements. This means they must be boxed and labeled appropriately for a biological specimen (unless it meets the definition of infectious). Coolers with the biohazard label on them that are secured in the car (usually on the floor of the back seat) will meet those requirements.

Other considerations for ground shipment of biological substances:

  • Use triple packaging consisting of a leak-proof primary receptacle (e.g. a blood tube), a leak-proof secondary package (e.g. sealable plastic bag), and an outer package (e.g. cardboard box or cooler if you are transporting it yourself)
  • Place absorbent materials between the primary receptacle and the secondary packaging and be sure to make sure there is no contact between primary receptacles if they are placed in the same sealable plastic bagg
  • Secure the secondary packaging with cushioning material (e.g. bubble wrap)
  • When you are done, the package should be able to withstand a drop from about four feet

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By Darryl Campbell on February 10th, 2018 at 11:09 am

I work for the transportation services at a medical center and we sevice some outreach community clinics, we are required to transport blood and urine back to the hospital in sealed containers. Do the drivers need any special licsense or anything of that nature,please advise

By Darryl Campbell on February 10th, 2018 at 11:10 am

do you need any special permits to transport bloood and urine

By Chavist Mack on February 11th, 2018 at 3:39 pm

I would like information on any licensing and training on medical Pick Up and Delivery Services.

By Daniel Alvarado on February 21st, 2018 at 4:36 pm

I work at a freestanding ER and we are part of a bigger hospital organization. We had previously been using a hospital courier service to transport our soiled instruments to be sterilized at the main facility. The instruments were being sprayed with a disinfectant prior to transporting, but we were told that the courier service had to have some sort of OSHA certification for this type of transport?

By Rob Nickla on April 12th, 2018 at 5:57 pm

I was recently asked by one of my sentinel clinical labs about using a commercial cab to transport samples. I was a little unsure of the details for how to respond regarding what would be permitted or required with a cab, so I was hoping I could please relay a few of the questions to you:
1. Would a facility be permitted to use a commercial cab to transport category B shipments? And if so,
a. Would they be permitted to use a reusable, outer “igloo-style” plastic container marked as “UN3373, Biological substance”?
b. Are there requirements for where the category B package would need to be in transport (e.g., trunk vs. back seat)?
c. Is the facility required to provide the cab driver with anything (e.g., documentation, awareness information, etc.)?
2. What type of category B samples can be shipped using the MOT exception?
a. And if the MOT exception is being utilized, does the facility need to provide the cab driver with anything?
3. Would this be the same for self-employed Lyft drivers as it is for a large commercial cab company?

Thank you!

By Chris McNeil on April 12th, 2018 at 11:43 pm

What was the answer to the above questions

By Jennifer Hagen on August 24th, 2018 at 10:00 am

We have two medical offices. We would like to transport cervical spinal fluid from a lumbar puncture between locations 16 miles apart. Can I do this if we package according to UN specifications in an employee’s personal vehicle?


Looking for answers, also. Apparently, I won’t find it here!

By david s. weber on April 12th, 2019 at 9:20 am

What license is required to transport medical samples like blood and urine to and from hospitals

By Angelatieli on June 27th, 2019 at 9:11 am

Прогнозы на футбол


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