Dispatching Biological Specimens
All biological specimens that are sent for diagnosis by post must be properly packaged and labelled so that both the specimen is protected, and there is no risk of infection to those handling the package during transit. Containment of specimens must be triple layered and packaging must conform to UN3373 and Packing Instruction P650 of the Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) requirements.
Ensure containment of specimens is triple layered, e.g.
- Leakproof primary container wrapped in sufficient absorbent material to absorb the entire contents
- Leakproof secondary packaging
- Rigid outer packaging (must be labelled ‘Biological Substance Category B’ and carry the UN3373 symbol)
Note: Road vehicles which collect from surgeries, clinics etc are often fitted with boxes into which the collected item is placed. Such boxes may be considered to constitute the rigid outer packaging (third layer), therefore collected items must consist of a primary container and secondary packaging.
Ensure paperwork/documentation to accompany the specimen is placed between the secondary and outer packaging and includes:
- Practice details (as the sender)
- Delivery details
- Emergency contact details
- Description of the contents
Royal Mail provides a prepaid ‘Safebox’ that conforms to UN3373 requirements, and instructions for transporting diagnostic specimens.
Sources of Information
- Guidance on regulations for the transport of infectious substances 2019-20. World Health Organisation (2019)
- Packaging and transport requirements for patient samples – UN3373
- Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by RoadUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe (2021)