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Public Health Ontario > Home > Services & Tools > Laboratory Services > Specimen Collection, Handling and Transportation
Specimen Collection, Handling and Transportation

Specimen Collection

A properly collected and handled specimen is critical to quality test results. Test Information Sheets provide comprehensive instructions, including:

  • Type of specimen to collect
  • Collection kit and requisition
  • Special requirements
  • Specimen handling
  • Test methodology and links to relevant Labstracts
  • Turnaround times

Information on Turn Around Time (TAT): The TAT published on PHO test information sheets is an estimate that may vary for some tests or during public health emergencies, outbreaks or exigent circumstances. The TAT does not apply to tests added on to existing specimens or on hold awaiting information to continue testing.  The TAT for tests sent to reference laboratories is dependent on the reference laboratory testing schedule and timing. “Days” refers to business days and excludes weekends and holidays. Public Health Ontario disclaims all warranties whether expressed or implied in respect of the information, including the TAT provided herein.

Specimen Handling and Transportation 

  • Specimens must be collected in an appropriate specimen container to maintain the integrity of the specimen.
  • Test Information Sheets specify the type of container or collection kit that should be used to collect the sample.
  • After collection, specimens must be labelled with the patient’s full name (or unique code number in the case of anonymous testing) and one other unique identifier such as the admission/identification or accession number.
  • Most specimens should be stored between 2-8°C. Specific handling/storage information is included in the test-specific Kit Instruction Sheets and Test Information Sheets. 

Packing

  • All specimens must be packaged carefully to avoid breakage or leakage of the specimen. All diagnostic specimens, cultures or biological products must be packed in compliance with the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations.
  • Complete one (1) Public Health Lab requisition per patient.
  • Never place the requisition inside the plastic bag with the specimen. Place in outside pouch of clear plastic bag.
  • All packages sent to the PHOL must be constructed, filled, closed and secured so that under normal conditions of transport, including handling, there will be no accidental release of the substance that could endanger public or employee safety.
  • The PHOL provides approved specimen transport bags (TC125 IB, Blue Transport Bags) to our clients for surface/road transport of Category B specimens.
  • To obtain Blue Transport Bags for transporting specimens to a PHOL or to arrange the pick-up of a PHOL specimen; call the Customer Service Centre at 416-235-6556 or 1-877-604-4567 or your local Public Health Laboratory.
  • Place all bagged samples, racks etc in a large Zip lock bag or plastic insert provided with the Blue Bag.
  • All packages must meet the requirements of the National Standards of Canada CAN/CGSB-43.125-2003.
    • PART 1 - 4.1 Type 1A (TC-125-1A) is used where a high integrity package is required.
    • PART 2 - Type 1B (TC-125-1B) is suitable for most routine shipments of diagnostic specimens.

Transportation  

  • The packaging and transportation of all diagnostic specimens, cultures or biological products must comply with the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations.
  • All packages sent to the PHOL must be constructed, filled, closed and secured so that under normal conditions of transport, including handling, there will be no accidental release of the substance that could endanger public or employee safety.
Further information regarding these regulations and compliance packaging can be obtained from the Transport Canada web site. For general enquiries email questions@tc.gc.ca
Uncontrolled print copy. Valid only on day of Print: [date]
Page updated on [date/time] 10/07/2015 2:18 PM
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