Sample packaging requirements

World Health Organization (WHO) Guidance (2005) states that: ‘Shippers of infectious substances must ensure that packages are prepared in such a manner that they arrive at their destination in good condition and present no hazard to others during transport.’

It is therefore the responsibility of the requestor to ensure that all samples are sent to KingsPath in accordance with the following instructions.

Warning labels

The HSE recommends attaching high risk or danger of infection stickers to samples and request forms from patients that pose a high risk of exposure to agents such as HIV, HBV, HCV, TB, typhoid, brucella or CJD. Care must be taken to protect the confidentiality of the patient when these stickers are used. See HSE guidance Safe working and the prevention of infection in clinical laboratories and similar facilities (ISBN 0-7176-2513-3).

Primary containers

A primary container is the container into which the sample is placed.

Only containers authorised by the laboratory should be used. They must be leak-proof and comply with BS ISO 6710:1995, BS 5213:1975 or other recognised standards.

Samples sent on dry ice

Samples on dry ice must not be sent in outer containers with a sealed lid as there is a risk of explosion during transport from the build up of carbon dioxide gas.

If dry ice is used to transport samples, the outer packaging or over pack should permit the release of carbon dioxide gas. The primary and the secondary packaging should maintain their integrity at the temperature of the refrigerant used.

Samples sent via Royal Mail

Packaging for samples sent via Royal Mail must comply with Packaging Instruction (PI) 650 for Category B substances. It is the sender’s responsibility to ensure that samples are packaged according to PI 650.

PI 650 requires that the primary sample container must be leak-proof and be wrapped in sufficient absorbent material to absorb any spillage. The primary container and absorbent material must be placed into a single sample bag with the request form in the pouch.

The sample bag should be placed into a leak-proof secondary package. This package must fully comply with both PI 650 and UN3373 requirements.

Sample bags

  • All samples must be put in the pouch of an individual transparent sample bag and sealed.
  • The bag should not be used for more than one sample for health and safety reasons and to avoid the risk of cross-contamination of samples.
  • The form should be placed in the pocket of the bag and must not be stapled to the bag.
  • Samples may not be processed if leaks have occurred.
  • Plastic sample bags are intended for single use only and must be discarded as clinical waste following use.
  • Sample containers and bags are available to order from the stores at King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill.