Transporting blood and urine samples

By: April 22nd, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: A question about transporting blood and urine samples. Do the samples need to be in a biohazard bag when transported either by hand, on a cart, or via a tube system that can go both to the lab and the pharmacy?

A: I think the simple response to your question is yes, based on the requirements in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. First off, we start with the section on specimens on OSHA’s website:


Specimens of blood or other potentially infectious materials shall be placed in a container which prevents leakage during collection, handling, processing, storage, transport, or shipping.

Now we could certainly discuss the merits of urine as a function of “other potentially infectious materials”, but in these days of Standard Precautions, the assumption we make is that it is presumed infectious until proven otherwise. We could also discuss the merits of the zip lock plastic bag as a function of leakage prevention, which will clearly depend on what the specimen is in; plastic would nominally be OK, while glass is probably a little less safe, depending on the method of transport, which would be another consideration.

So moving on to labeling, it seems pretty clear that some sort of unique identifier is in order and since the “standard” for that would be the biohazard symbol, I think we can safely identify that combination as the way to go.


The container for storage, transport, or shipping shall be labeled or color-coded according to paragraph (g)(1)(i) and closed prior to being stored, transported, or shipped. When a facility utilizes Universal Precautions in the handling of all specimens, the labeling/color-coding of specimens is not necessary provided containers are recognizable as containing specimens. This exemption only applies while such specimens/containers remain within the facility. Labeling or color-coding in accordance with paragraph (g)(1)(i) is required when such specimens/containers leave the facility.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m including the items under paragraph (g)(1)(i) below, just in case there is something than clicks with your particular situation:


Labels and Signs –




Warning labels shall be affixed to containers of regulated waste, refrigerators and freezers containing blood or other potentially infectious material; and other containers used to store, transport or ship blood or other potentially infectious materials, except as provided in paragraph (g)(1)(i)(E), (F) and (G).


Labels required by this section shall include the following legend:


These labels shall be fluorescent orange or orange-red or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color.


Labels shall be affixed as close as feasible to the container by string, wire, adhesive, or other method that prevents their loss or unintentional removal.


Red bags or red containers may be substituted for labels.


Containers of blood, blood components, or blood products that are labeled as to their contents and have been released for transfusion or other clinical use are exempted from the labeling requirements of paragraph (g).


Individual containers of blood or other potentially infectious materials that are placed in a labeled container during storage, transport, shipment or disposal are exempted from the labeling requirement.


Labels required for contaminated equipment shall be in accordance with this paragraph and shall also state which portions of the equipment remain contaminated.


Regulated waste that has been decontaminated need not be labeled or color-coded.

Hopefully, that helps answer your question; I think as long as you have something that is specifically identifiable to all who would be handling the specimens, you should be fine.


also, anything transported in a tube should be padded with padding between each vial. Even with plastic tubes widely in use they still do shatter if they are not properly prepared. If it breaks, the entire tube system must be shut down and cleaned/disinfected. Also, the patinet must provide another sample. The worst one I encountered was several years ago in the PICU when we had to repeat a lumbar puncture on a toddler when the sample was lost. This became a risk management issue because as you can imagine, the parents were very upset that their little girl had to endure a traumatic procedure twice. We actually instituted hand carrying any sample that could not be easily redrawn (CSF, joint fluids, etc) based on this incident at our facility. We now only send blood, sputum and urine samples via the tubes.

By Carla Kopec on January 22nd, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Can you re-use plastic biohazard bags that transport specimens to the microbiolgy lab if the bags are not visibly contaminated? All of our micro specimens are put into bags & trying to cut down on cost/waste.

By Will Kilburn on January 24th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hello Karla-

Managing Editor Will Kilburn here. One of our experts, Dan Scungio, answered this question on a different thread here: “Reuse of biohazard specimen bags is not recommended. These bags are considered contaminated once used and should be disposed of per your regulatory waste regulations.”

You can read the full post, which includes the rest of his answer, here:

Let me know if this answers your question, Will

several of the nurses and techs are required to transport up to 400 ml of blood product after stem cell collection and tubes of blood to our lab several miles away. It is in a cooler>we are required to transport this in our personal cars.
Is this appropriate practice?
Should a trained transporter (which the company has) be used for this job?
Should there be a visible sticker on the car stating that bio hazard material is in the car?
How do you secure the cooler?
Who is responsible for clean up and spill?
Thank you

By Prakash Shah on October 18th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

We transport blood and urine samples from outpatient clinic to our hospital laboratory. This is done by ground transport. We put absorbant sheets to absorb any possible spill. Is this necessary?

By Prakash Shah on October 21st, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Please respond to above question

In the private sector are there any regulations on the chain of custody as far as who is allowed to transport or deliver the samples to Fedex?

By Melissa Guzman on July 9th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

How OSHA define “transport”? In a clinic setting where urine specimens are being obtained we are trying to determine if lids for specimen cups are necessary. If the specimen is moved at all to run a test (in our case a pregnancy test)does that qualify as transporting it? Or can open cups be used to collect urine specimens?

By ralph montanez on June 19th, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Guide lines for ice/pak containers, coolers for airtransport{FFA,OSHA } requirements .

Thank You

Can blood samples be stored at a private residence if access to the medical clinic is unavailable? Is there an OSHA guideline available for reference?

cell 0711355910
fax 086 606 2035

i here by to send a request i have a peugeot car i wanna put it in yr company to deliver medical sample soi wanna know what is needed to get a project like that
kinds regard
madonsela bv

By Barbara Thomas-Parshley on October 26th, 2016 at 2:39 pm

My daughter helped a friend when he needed blood transported from collection sites to laboratory. She was provided an emergency light for her car along with her car being marked as transporting blood. She was asked for her license, license plate number and social security number so that a permit could be issued to her for transporting the blood. Turned out the man who hired her never provided any type of permit to her. Was he required to?

By ruth dudley on May 28th, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Why cant my blood product from the lab be picker up by me if packaged properly and delivered to the apothecary? I did this for over 3 years. Living 3hours out of London On. it is a 2day venture to get my eye drops. They send someone to the lab(whenever)and back to apothecary and drops prepared. Almost impossible same day.No one pays for my overnight stay!I could take the training and do it myself.

By Rebecca Watkins on October 23rd, 2018 at 8:35 am

Can empty evacuated tubes and blood culture bottles be placed in clear biohazard bags for transport to Nursing locations for collections through the pneumatic tube system and/or by person? We have been told that this is prohibited and that they must be in clear bags without biohazard label. This seems pointless and costly. The evacuated tubes and blood culture bottles contain anticoagulants & other “hazardous” materials. Why can’t they be sent in the biohazard bag for collection and returned in biohazard bag when they contain specimen (blood)?


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