Skip to main content

Sample Collection and Transport Guidelines

Useful and reliable laboratory results depend largely on proper sample collection for the clinically appropriate test request, timely transport, and clear communications with the laboratory. 

Sample Collection

For specific testing information please visit the eLab handbook website.  For after hours or emergencies, contact the Medical Microbiologist On-Call at 604-661-7033.

Please note the following requirements:

All samples submitted to BCCDC Public Health Laboratory must adhere to provincial and federal regulations and laws regarding packaging and transport including Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) where applicable. 

It is the responsibility of the shipper of the sample to determine whether or not packages for transport meet the above requirements. 

It is illegal to mail dangerous goods (which include infectious substances) via Canada Post.

For All Sample Types                        

  • Complete requisition legibly.  Include all mandatory information.
    1. Patient name (surname and given name)
    2. Date of Birth (DOB)
    3. Personal Health Number (PHN)
    4. LIS accession number
    5. Unique random number
    6. Ordering physician
  • Submit a separate completed requisition and a labeled sample container for each test requested unless otherwise specified (e.g. serology tests).
  • Label the sample container clearly with two identifiers (examples include patient name (surname and given name) and date of birth, PHN, accession number, unique random number. Ensure these two identifiers match the completed requisition.
  • Ensure sample containers are tightly closed to prevent leakage during transport. Leaking samples may not be processed.
  • Put the labeled sample inside the sealable biohazard bag, and then seal the bag.  If the sample is liquid, place enough absorbent material in the bag to absorb the liquid should the container break or leak.  Put the completed requisition in the outer pocket of the biohazard bag.  Do not allow the completed requisition to come in contact with the labeled sample container.
  • Refrigerate the prepared labeled sample where appropriate prior to and during transport.
  • A dedicated labeled sample is required for PCR (molecular) testing. Manipulation of samples prior to sending for PCR (molecular) testing may result in false negative or positive PCR (molecular) results.

Unacceptable Samples Types – General

  • Unlabelled samples
  • Leaking samples
  • Patient name on the labelled sample does not match name on the completed requisition
  • Samples accompanied by undecipherable, blank or no requisitions
  • Sample type collected in wrong sample container

Failure to:

  • Use the correct BCCDC Public Health Laboratory requisitions  or acceptable alternatives (e.g. interfaced orders)
  • Provide mandatory information
  • Use the correct collection container
  • Ship safely

is a breach of PHSA Laboratories policies and procedures and is a serious patient safety issue.

Sample Packing Instructions

To ensure the safety of our staff, leaking or improperly packaged samples, may not be processed.

Note: these instructions are based on IATA packing instructions 650.

  1. Use the container (primary container) provided in the collection kit or as indicated in this guide.  See individual sections for specific collection and labeling instructions.  If capped, ensure it is fully closed to prevent leakage.
  2. Place the securely sealed primary container into plastic 'biohazard bag' (secondary container). Wrap the primary container or place enough absorbent material (this is not supplied with collection kits, e.g. paper towel, clean gauze or tissue paper) in the bag to totally absorb sample should the primary container leak or break.  Only 1 sample per biohazard bag should be included, even if the samples come from the same patient (an exception is blood samples collected in standard vacutainer containers, which can be packaged as multiple samples per bag). Cushioning should be provided to prevent breakage.
  3. If breakage occurs, this will likely contaminate all other samples grouped together in one biohazard bag. Ensure that the patient name and additional identifier is on each container to allow matching to its corresponding requisition.
  4. Fill out the correct BCCDC Public Health Laboratory requisition and individual sections for instructions and insert it into the side pouch of the biohazard bag.  Do not place it inside with the sample (in case of leaks).  Fold the requisition so that the front is visible and place it in the pouch so that the requisition can be read.
  5. Place the secondary container inside a third (outer) package for protection from physical damage and water while in transit.  This may be a plastic cooler, a fiberboard box or other container that is designed, constructed, filled and closed so that under normal conditions of handling and transport, there will be no discharge, emission or escape of the dangerous goods that could constitute a danger to public safety.
  6. Multiple secondary containers may be included.  When possible, please group samples by collection kit type.  Health Units use waterproof containers to transport samples to PHSA Laboratories, BCCDC Public Health Laboratory via courier.

These are general rules that apply to most samples submitted to PHSA Laboratories, BCCDC Public Health Laboratory via Health Units, courier or authorized persons. 

Transportation of Samples

By courier or authorized persons:

Samples may be delivered to BCCDC Public Health Laboratory or Central Processing & Receiving – Lane Level (CPR-LL), (deliveries received at the rear of building), 655 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver.

All samples must be in acceptable sample collection containers and properly packaged as per Transport Canada, Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations. 

Hours of operation (BCCDC Public Health Laboratory Specimen Receiving)

  • Monday – Friday: 0700 – 2300; Sat, Sun and Stats: 0800 – 1800

Lab sample drop-off instructions


  • Place in specimen receiving refrigerated specimen drop-box (checked at least hourly during operating hours). Located in lane/alley.

Oversize packages (operating hours)

  • ring to hand-deliver during operating hours to specimen receiving in lane/alley.

Oversize packages (non-operating hours)

  • go to main entrance lobby, speak to security to facilitate drop-off in laboratory.

STAT/Emergency Samples

To expedite STAT testing (generally results available in less than 4 hours; some tests take longer), the following guidelines must be followed:

 1.  Consult with the Program (Medical Microbiologist) or Team Lead of the 
       program or services before submitting the sample for emergency 
  • Some cases require consultation with the Program Head/Medical Microbiologist who lead their Program before samples will be tested.
  • For after-hours emergencies, the Program Medical Microbiologist On-Call may be reached at 604-661-7033.
  • Provide the following information (clinical history, sample type, test required) to the appropriate Team Lead or Program Head before submitting the sample.
2.  Other information required includes:
  • Patient information (name, date of birth, PHN, etc.)
  • Method of transport (including the name of the courier/airline and waybill numbers)
  • Approximate time of departure/arrival
  • Name of the contact person and their telephone number (for telephoned results).  Fax number is also required.

3.  Clearly label the package (interior and exterior) with "STAT" including              attention to the appropriate Section or Program Head. Ensure that the              name of the contact person at BCCDC Public Health Laboratory is also on          the requisition.

4.  Do not package STAT samples together with regular samples.

5.  If after hours, the Medical Microbiologist On-Call 604-661-7033  will                  agree on details of sample delivery and receipt.

SOURCE: Sample Collection and Transport Guidelines ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Centre for Disease Control. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority.