Safety Safety Safety Safety

The University of Westminster has a full range of safety documents relating to all laboratory safety issues. Protocols range from the appropriate behaviour in the laboratory, to the correct procedure for handling spills. Safety is an important aspect of lab work. However, it can easily be forgotten or just ignored as many students find it tedious and boring. To prevent injury safety should always be taken seriously as there are many hazards in the lab; from chemicals to microorganisms. These are some of the basic rules and regulations provided by our safety officer, Stuart Thompson, that we followed when working with microorganism:

1. At all times you must wear correct protective clothing- laboratory coat which must be correctly fastened at all times. The School of Biosciences provides laboratory coats for students. These MUST be put on a coat hanger and returned to the rack after use, and NOT thrown on the bench or floor. Depending on the experimental design, additional protective wear should be worn (e.g. gloves, masks, safety spectacles, visors) as instructed by the member of staff in charge.
2. You must not eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in the laboratory, on any laboratory floors, on stairs, or in lifts.
3. You must not suck or bite pencils or pens. You must not wear sandals, cumbersome jewellery or hats.
4. You must not lick labels prior to sticking them to apparatus (use tap water, self-adhesive labels or marker pen).
5. Avoid touching your face, hair, eyes, mouth, etc. whilst in the laboratory. Long hair must be tied back.
6. You must keep your available bench space clear, clean, tidy and free of inessential clutter, e.g. books.
7. You must not remove any materials from the laboratory, e.g. microbial cultures, without the permission of the lecturer in charge.
8. Manipulations by loop or pipette should be performed in a manner to minimise the production of aerosols.
9. Pipetting by mouth of any material is forbidden. You must always use the teats, syringes, and pipette-fillers provided.
10. All manipulations should be performed aseptically, using plugged pipettes, and the contaminated pipettes disposed of in the containers indicated by the lecturer in charge.
11. Contaminated glassware, plastic ware, microscope slides and discarded Petri dishes etc., must be placed in the receptacles indicated by the lecturer in charge.
12. It should be recognised that certain procedures or equipment produce aerosols of contaminated material, e.g. the breaking of any fluid film, centrifugation and the agitation of fluids in shaking or orbital incubators.
13. Report all personal accidents, minor cuts and abrasions, breakages and spillages of cultures and reagents to the lecturer in charge. Cuts and abrasions must be protected by an adequate waterproof dressing.
14. If instructed, before leaving your bench, swab the area down with an appropriate disinfectant.
15. Before leaving the laboratory, return personal protective clothing, hang up your lab coat correctly, and wash your hands with soap (preferably germicidal).

Further information about Safety

Our project
During our project we used the appropriate lab safety protocols. Our project did not pose any serious risk to anyone’s health as we are working with level 1 organism, Escherichia coli and Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, and low hazardous chemicals. The genes are not pathogenic and thus do not raise any threats to anyone’s health. When disposing of any possible toxic chemicals, tips, petri dishes with growth and any other disposable lab equipment that may have made contact with microorganisms or possible toxic chemicals, we used a separate waste bin which is firstly autoclaved and then discarded as waste. This ensures organisms do not accidently escape and grow outside the laboratory.

Our Project

Our BioBricks were not created for the purpose of altering or destroying other microorganisms or multicellular organisms. Further details of safety regarding the BioBricks can be found in the Biocontainment section of the wiki page.

Our University

University of Westminster has a biological safety officer, Stuart Thompson, who deals with laboratory safety and keeps a check on whether or not the rules are being followed. The laboratory that we occupied, was predominantly used by PhD students and university Professors, and is certified for GM experiments and handling level 1 microorganisms. The researchers and PhD students, with whom we shared our laboratory space, were also there to guide us through all the health and safety protocols, and remind us of the correct laboratory etiquette.

iGEM Requirements

As part of the iGEM application process each team had to complete a series of safety forms- ‘About Our Lab’, ‘About Our Project’, and ‘Final Safety Form’.
We fulfilled all the requirements set by iGEM, and have familiarised ourselves with the safety requirements laid out by the organisers of the competition.

Microbial Fuel Cell

The genes that were inserted into the strain of E.coli that we used in our research project  are class 1 GMO activity. The laboratory in which the MFCs were set up has a level 1 clearance. The laboratory SOPs were always followed when using the incubation chamber where the MFCs were kept. The electrical current produced by the MFC was never significantly high enough to be considered a risk to anyone handling the experimental equipment.