Policy last updated

15 June 2020


  • Schools

February 2020



The purpose of this policy is to ensure risks associated with the use of biological materials in the teaching of science are managed appropriately.


  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic)External Link requires the department to provide a working environment that, so far as is reasonably practicable, is safe and without risk to health, including in relation to the use of biological materials in the teaching of science or related subjects.
  • The principal and/or their delegate must manage OHS risks associated with the handling and disposal of biological material.
  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to the OHS Advisory Service and local OHS regional officers, who can provide free advice about managing the risks associated with use and disposal of biological materials in the teaching of science.
  • This policy forms part of the department’s OHS Management System, see OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview for further information.


The principal and/or their delegate should in consultation with the Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) and employees, ensure that:

  • all biological material used in the school as part of the teaching curriculum is identified
  • the biological material is documented in the ‘Hazard Description’ column of the OHS Risk Register (e.g. biological hazard)
  • risk controls are implemented to manage the biological material risks
  • risk controls implemented are reviewed to ensure their effectiveness in managing the risk and incorporate any changes to controls on the OHS Risk Register (XLSX)External Link .

The principal and/or their delegate must follow the following recommended management and disposal advice for the use of biological materials in schools including:

Animal tissue – contaminated or partially contaminated

  • Animal tissue contaminated with an infectious organism, or treated with chemicals known to be environmentally unsafe, must be disposed of at an Environment Protection Authority (EPA) approved biomedical waste incinerator.
  • Note: To find an EPA-approved biomedical waste incinerator refer to the EPA Clinical and Related Waste Guidelines.External Link

Animals or Animal tissue used for dissection purpose that is uncontaminated (have not been treated with drugs or chemicals)

  • Must be placed in a leak-proof, sealed plastic container (such as a double-thickness tied plastic bag) with disinfectant solution
  • Can be disposed of in a dumpster (note: if the dumpster is not cleared within forty-eight hours, the material must be refrigerated)
  • Can be disposed of in a council tip (landfills) provided that it is covered on the day of disposal (note: in regional areas, contact the local council or shire). Burying animal material on-site is prohibited
  • Disposing of animal material using an in-sink disposal unit is prohibited

Blood lancets

Do not use blood lancets or take samples of blood from students. Buy prepared blood slides if a microscope examination of blood is required.

Non-pathogenic bacterial colonies

Brightly coloured colonies may be obtained by exposing a nutrient agar plate to the open air for an hour and then incubating it at 25°C until colonies appear. However, because a pathogenic colony could grow unintentionally:

  • grow all cultures in sealed disposable containers
  • ensure students do not touch bacterial colonies
  • all bacterial colonies are destroyed after use
  • all glassware and instruments used are sterilised after use.

Serratia marcescens

Serratia marcescens (S.marcescens) is a gram-negative bacillus that occurs naturally in soil and water and produces a red pigment at room temperature. It is associated with:

  • urinary and respiratory infections
  • endocarditis
  • osteomyelitis
  • septicemia
  • wound infections
  • eye infections
  • meningitis.

It is very resistant to antibiotics.

Do not use serratia marcescens unless aseptic techniques are adhered to.


Aseptic technique
Aseptic technique aims to prevent pathogenic organisms, in sufficient quantity to cause infection, from being introduced to susceptible body sites by:

  • the hands of staff
  • surfaces, or
  • equipment.

It involves applying the strictest rules to minimise the risk of infection.
Aseptic techniques range from simple practices, such as using alcohol to sterilise the skin, to full surgical techniques, which involves the use of sterile gowns, gloves, and masks.

Biological material
Biological material is a material produced by a biological system.

In the school environment biological material(s) may vary according to the purpose for which they are collected (e.g. part of the curriculum activity)

Examples of biological material are:

  • animal tissue(s)
  • fungi
  • body fluid such as human saliva
  • microorganisms
  • plant material.

Note: The taking of human blood samples or the use of human blood products is not permitted.

Nutrient agar plate
Nutrient Agar is a general purpose, nutrient medium used for the cultivation of microbes supporting growth of a wide range of non-fastidious organisms. Nutrient agar is popular because it can grow a variety of types of bacteria and fungi, and contains many nutrients needed for the bacterial growth.

A nutrient agar plate is a Petri dish that contains the nutrient agar used to culture microorganisms.



There is no procedure for this topic. For more information, refer to Resources tab.




Templates relevant to this policy and procedure

Reviewed 17 March 2020