Team:Oxford/wet lab safety

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Lab Safety

Lab Safety

Safety in the lab is of paramount importance for iGEM. Before we set foot in the lab we were given a very thorough safety briefing by the biochemistry department. As undergraduate scientists, most of us were already familiar with basic techniques and lab safety.

Before going into the lab we filled out COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) forms. There were some techniques that we used which could be dangerous to us, for example viewing DNA under ultraviolet light. For these techniques, we were given additional training by our supervisors.

Before we began our project we filled out a risk assessment under the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) regulations 2000. We gave an overview of our project and stated which bacteria, techniques and vectors would be used during our time in the laboratory. The project was then approved by the Biochemistry departments Genetic Modification Safety Committee.

Every day we made sure we took multiple safety precautions to protect ourselves and people outside of the lab.

Latex gloves and hand washing: While it may seem like an elementary lab safety it is important to keep doing it and not get complacent. We are working with bacteria which contain plasmids for antibiotic resistance and we do not want them to spread.

Lab coats and goggles: Again this is very basic lab safety but we need to keep doing it. Lab coats and goggles protect us from any hazardous chemicals we are using.

Using UV equipment: We were trained how to use this as it could be dangerous to our eyes or skin. We used masks to protect our eyes and faces when we used as well as ensuring we had no exposed skin.

Disposal: There are different bins for different biological materials (e.g. pipette tips, fluids) and we learned how to dispose of them correctly.

Hazardous chemicals: Some of the chemicals we use are toxic to humans (e.g. ethidium bromide) so we must take extra care while handling them.

Making agar gels: When creating agar gels, the agar powder and buffer is heated in the microwave. When this happens, it is important to not fully screw the cap of the bottle on, or it may explode.

Emergencies: We were told what to do in the event of a fire, chemical spillage or injury.

We filled out safety forms for all of our parts. Our parts were all from organisms which were risk group 2 or below. We also ensured that there is nothing in our bacteria which could be used to create bioweapons or pose a danger to other people.