Human blood handling

The resource person

Your ACMO will help you for risk analysis, prevention measures and the procedure to be followed in case of AES ('accident exposant au sang', 'accidental blood exposure').

Obtaining blood samples

EFS (Etablissement Français du Sang, French blood bank) can provide 'qualified' blood (blood that has been checked for some viruses) or blood 'under qualification', testing. The latter will be reserved for manipulations where 'fresh' blood is needed.

Blood may also be obtained from a hospital department when some characteristics are necessary, for example linked to a pathology (infectious or not).

In some cases, samples may come from foreign countries in which health care structures are precarious and where endemic diseases are very different from those in European countries.

What is usually called called 'self-collection' (i.e. collecting blood from any member of the lab for the needs of the lab) is forbidden.

Risk Analysis

Many pathogenic agents can be present in human blood. Obviously, all of them may be transmitted to humans.

Qualified blood has been tested negative for anti-HIV (1 and 2) or anti-HCV antibodies and HBs antigen (hepatitis B). These tests do not concern the presence of other pathogens or a very recent infection by HIV, HCV and HBV. So this blood represents a potential biological hazard.

While qualification is under process, blood has to be considered even more potentially dangerous; the results given by the qualification only help saving precious time in case of AES.

A blood sample is not without risk because it comes from a hospital department. On the contrary, in addition to the possible silent pathogens, there is also a risk to be contaminated by nosocomial strains (multiresistant to antibiotics, for example).

For samples coming from abroad, you have to consider the sanitary situation in the country of origin. In particular, when taking medical advice, remind the doctor that you work with foreign blood samples. A possible contamination by an uncommon disease in our countries will then be diagnosed faster.

The actions involving the most risks are :

  • transporting in a non-secured packing
  • receiving and opening the parcel and samples
  • manipulating (pipetting, mixing, centrifugation, culture…)
  • washing dirty and reusable equipment.

Prevention measures


When you ask for blood with particular characteristics, you have to check all elements of risk analysis the hospital department is aware of. It is then possible to sort the samples in order to make sure you don’t obtain blood in which the presence of one or another pathogen is known or suspected .

Human blood has to be handled in a level 2 containment laboratory (European regulations),  wearing a lab coat and latex gloves, under a biosafety cabinet. It will be centrifuged in closed tubes or sealed gondolas; tubes will be placed in or taken from the gondola only under the biosafety cabinet.

Waste will be sorted and treated as DASRI ('déchets d’activité de soin à risque infectieux', hazardous waste with infectious risk).

Accidental blood exposure ('accident exposant au sang', AES)

In case of AES, the lab must have a procedure that you will follow IMMEDIATELY, and you will take medical advice as well. It is important to know this procedure before starting to work with human blood, rather than after an accident, when panicking…


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05 FEVRIER 2012 : Ouverture des inscriptions aux 29èmes journée de l'ADHYS "Santé au travail : Comment prendre en compte les risques psychosociaux" les 29 et 30 mars 2012 à l'université de Lorraine (Metz).

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