iGEM EPFL 2018

Lab safety

Safety Training and Supervision

Prior to obtaining access to our labs, the team had received safety training provided by Stephane Karlen, head of the biosecurity unit of the Life Science Faculty at EPFL since 2003 and member of the Safety, Prevention and Health Domain (DSPS) at EPFL. The safety training involves an induction in basic laboratory safety equipment, prevention and assessment of risks, procedures used in case of emergency and the organisms and materials that we can safely use.

Stephane Karlen has had extensive experience in the field with a PhD in Microbiology and Virology from the University of Lausanne accompanied with 15 years of experience in biomedical research (ISREC, Perth, Inselspital), an advanced training certificate in biosafety from the University of Geneva and is a Founder and active member of the "Swiss Biosafety Network".

We are also under the guidance of three PhD Instructors that are part of the Doctoral Program in Biotechnology and Bioengineering in the Laboratory of Biological Network Characterization (LBNC) in EPFL, Gregoire Michielin, Ivan Istomin and Michael Crone as well as Prof. Sebastian Maerkl, the Principal Investigator of the LNBC that work closely with us on a daily basis, overseeing our project as a whole, in particular our experiment protocols and advising us accordingly.

In addition to this, we are also closely supervised by Josiane Angele Charlotte Smith-Clerc who is charged with managing the lab we are using for the project. She works closely with us on a daily basis to ensure that the protocols of our experiment fall in line with the BioSafety Requirements of EPFL as well as monitor our practices in the lab to ensure that high levels of safety are maintained.

Risk assessment

All the organisms that we are using during the project are under the Biosafety Level 1 code, meaning that these cells are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults and present minimal potential hazard to laboratory technicians and the environment. However, there are multiple risks that can be identified for all of the different organisms used:

  • Skin Contact, can cause minor irritation and redness of the area. Continuous exposure might cause dryness of the skin or cracking.
  • Eye Contact, can cause minor irritation and redness of the area.
  • Ingestion, may cause drowsiness or dizziness and additionally can cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Inhalation, may cause irritation of respiratory tract.

Most of this risks can be mitigated by the conformation of the safety requirements under the Biosafety Level I Standards, which include the use of personal protection items, including Chemical Splash Goggles, Chemical Resistant Gloves, and appropriate clothing to prevent skin exposure. In addition, a Respiratory protection program that complies with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 and ANSI Z88.2 requirements or European Standard EN 149. Furthermore, the use and storage of these organisms requires the user to maintain and make available appropriate eyewash and safety shower facilities, in addition to the use of fume hoods or other appropriate ventilation methods to keep airborne concentrations a low as possible. Further safety precautions have been identified for storage, handling and transportation of the product and can be found in the SDS of the different products.