What are Safety Protocols in Handling Frozen Cells?

safety protocols

Safety protocols protect laboratory personnel and cell cultures

Working with cell cultures often involves handling frozen cells. Safe handling is essential to keep you, your lab personnel and your cells protected and healthy. The foundation for safe handling begins with the correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) followed by training and knowledge, familiarity with cold storage equipment and liquid nitrogen, controlled workspace precautions, and strict aseptic techniques. Together, these key protocols can contribute to the safety of you and your lab personnel, the preservation of your cell cultures’ viability, and success of your research. As always, follow the safety protocols determined by your facility and regulatory guidelines for complete information relevant to your cell type and application.

Use proper personal protective equipment (PPE)

cryogenic PPE

Cole-Parmer® Essentials Cryogenic Safety Apparel Kit

Safety regulations mandate the use of PPE, such as gloves, mask, aprons, closed-toe shoes, goggles and face shields, ensuring a safe working environment. For everyday use, PPE adds a layer of protection for you. In emergencies, it provides an added layer of defense, reducing the severity of potential injuries. PPE can shield against chemical exposure, serving as barriers that protect the skin and clothing from dangerous substances. PPE also prevents contamination within your laboratory, preserving the integrity of experimental samples.

If working with liquid nitrogen, use specific cryogenic apparel designed for cryogenic applications including face shields, aprons and gloves.

Know emergency procedures and preparedness

Be aware of how to respond to emergencies to protect you and your colleagues. Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency eyewashes, safety showers, and fire extinguishers in the laboratory. Knowing the correct actions to take during a fire, chemical spill, or a biological exposure incident can prevent injuries and minimize the severity of accidents.

Emergency procedures provide guidelines for addressing chemical spills, fires, equipment malfunctions, and other safety hazards, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. Emergency procedures can help safeguard expensive equipment, valuable cell lines, and research materials. Quick and appropriate actions can minimize damage during incidents such as equipment malfunctions, power outages, or natural disasters.

Provide comprehensive training and safety knowledge

Regular training and drills on emergency procedures can ensure that everyone in your lab is well-prepared to respond effectively in crisis situations. In addition to emergencies, lab personnel handling frozen cells need to be properly trained in cell culture techniques and safety procedures. Proper training not only promotes the efficient handling of frozen cells but also minimizes the risk of contamination and accidents. This ensures the preservation of the cell cultures’ integrity and the success of scientific research. Through a combination of comprehensive training and the acquisition of relevant knowledge, lab personnel can maintain the highest standards of safety and quality in the handling of frozen cells.

Be familiar with cold storage equipment and liquid nitrogen


Cole-Parmer® PolarSafe® Cryogenic Storage Dewar

Because frozen cells need to be stored in ultra-low-temperature freezers or liquid nitrogen tanks to maintain their viability, you and all your lab personnel should be familiar with cold storage equipment and its proper usage to prevent cross-contamination, avoid temperature fluctuations, extend equipment longevity, enhance efficiency, and troubleshoot if needed. Improper usage can lead to hazards, such as temperature fluctuations and equipment malfunctions.

Always use appropriate cryogenic storage and Dewars to transport and store liquid nitrogen. Follow the guidelines for the safe handling of liquid nitrogen, including using proper gloves and face protection. Keep liquid nitrogen containers well-ventilated to prevent pressure buildup.

Prepare and maintain a safe workspace

While work can be performed in an open-air area, most often cell culture labs use a dedicated biological safety cabinet (BSC) or a laminar flow hood. Ensure that your workspace is clean and uncluttered to minimize the risk of spills or accidents. Prep your area and make sure you have all equipment and supplies organized in your area. Place absorbent material, like paper towels, in the workspace to quickly contain any spills. It’s also best to limit the amount of workers or traffic in the area to lessen the risk of contamination or accidents.

Safely contain hazardous materials

 Ensure safety, regulatory compliance and cell culture protection by containing any hazardous materials. This helps to prevent accidents, cross-contamination, and occupational health risks. Dispose of any used or contaminated materials in designated biohazard waste containers. Be sure to dispose of liquid nitrogen and cryogenic vials per your local regulations.

Adhere to aseptic technique

aseptic techniqueAdherence to aseptic technique is best practice for cell culture. It helps to prevent contamination and keep the purity of your cell cultures. This technique involves a lengthy list of items and tasks, but to generalize, it includes using laminar flow hoods or biosafety cabinets, regular handwashing, and the use of disposable gloves. Sterilize equipment and work areas, keep work areas clean, and take steps to reduce air turbulence and prevent cross-contamination. When working with cell culture media and reagents, meticulous aseptic techniques, like checking expiration dates, are necessary to ensure a contamination-free environment.

Concluding thoughts on safety protocols for handling frozen cells

Handling frozen cells is a part of cell culture work, but it comes with specific safety considerations. Adhering to these safety protocols is crucial to protect laboratory personnel and support the integrity of your cell cultures. Regular training and vigilance in following these procedures will help ensure a safe and productive work environment in the cell culture laboratory. Specific protocols may vary depending on the type of cells you are working with. Always consult with your lab supervisor or the safety officer at your institution for any added safety measures or requirements related to handling frozen cells.

Learn more about cell cryopreservation at coleparmer.com


Culture Collections, Fundamental Techniques in Cell Culture, Accessed November 6, 2023.

PubMed®, Aseptic Technique for Cell Culture, Accessed November 6, 2023.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Personal Protective Equipment, Accessed November 6, 2023.

Related Articles

Choosing the Right Cryovials and Caps for Successful Cell Cryopreservation

Freezing Cells: What is Cryopreservation?


Be the first to comment on "What are Safety Protocols in Handling Frozen Cells?"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: