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Safety considerations and regulations ensure that everybody is safe while working in the lab. Every person working in our lab is instructed about possible risks and how to handle everything safely. Several factors contribute to a safe working environment for all project participants. Some of the most important safety precautions that were taken are listed and explained more detailed below.

Safety Management

Several factors and measures guarantee a safe working environment and project. These include:
  1. A safety instruction by the responsible group leader
  2. Device instructions and training
  3. Following of respective and applicable laws
  4. Risk assessment of used organisms
  5. Risk assessment of used materials/substances
  6. General risk assessment of project
  7. Estimation of future risks
  8. Checkups

Restricted laboratory access controlled by personalized tokens.
As a first important safety and security feature, the laboratory entrance is secured with an electronical lock, which can be unlocked with a personalized token that is required for access. This system enables manageable access restriction or permission of users for different laboratories and installations. This is especially important in terms of biosecurity. In addition, we took a close look at the materials, substances and organisms we used. All organisms that we handled in our lab during our project were subject to the biosafety classification level 1 (BSL 1) or below. If it was possible, we also tried to use nontoxic and nonhazardous substances. When toxic or hazardous substances were necessary, the safety data sheets were followed strictly, and respective safety precautions were taken. For this purpose, we used appropriate devices and installations in our laboratory such as fume hoods.
Standard set of safety clothing for working in the laboratory.
The next safety level are personal protective clothing and equipment including a lab coat, safety goggles, protective gloves, UV protection screens, etc. which were mandatory. Our instructors and supervisors checked regularly that the safety regulations were followed. According to the slogan “Organization and cleanliness delivers quality and safety” we turned our attention to a clean lab and working environment. Before starting in the lab, we cleaned it thoroughly, so that everything was tidy and properly ordered. After that we distributed the responsibilities for the working benches and working spaces to certain team members, so that everyone was responsible for certain areas and had to ensure that their space was clean and ready to work on. These measures contributed largely to a safe and flawless workflow. Regularly controlling the current working situations and precautionary measures is especially important to maintain a safe working environment. This can be supported through adjustments and improvements over time. Therefore, there were many specific inspections by us and our PIs regarding the flawless function of safety installations and the obey of all lab rules, e. g. wearing lab coats, safety goggles, etc., which were conducted in regular time intervals. Even though there are many precautionary measures and we thrive to maximize those, it is possible that an case of emergency occurs. Therefore, there are many safety installations in the laboratory, which aim to reduce the effects and consequences of an accident. The laboratory is fully equipped with emergency showers and several types of fire extinguishers. Further equipment includes a first-aid kit and a defibrillator nearby.
Emergency shower.
Eye shower.
Fire extinguisher.
First-aid kit and defibrillator nearby the lab.

Safety Instruction

Safety instructions.
Before starting the laboratory work a mandatory safety instruction for all participants was conducted. The safety instruction was carried out according to different German regulations, especially the “Arbeitsschutzgesetz” – ArbSchG and the “Gentechnikgesetz”, and had to be confirmed with a personal signature of the participants. A safety instruction has to be performed by a responsible person to any person who is beginning to work in the laboratory and must be refreshed annually by law (see §12 ArbSchG).

The safety instruction covers:
  1. General lab safety
  2. Regulations concerning hazardous and toxic substances
  3. Regulations concerning biological substances
  4. Regulations concerning genetic engineering

General lab safety covers mandatory measures to obtain a safe working environment and ensure safe operating. Further it includes the right behavior in case of danger and the proper usage of the laboratory safety measures.

Device Instruction

Allen key and needle nose pliers on a centrifuge.
For every device used we have been given a special instruction to safely operate it. This does not only guarantee the safe and correct usage of the device, but also enabled us to collect reliable data.
The instruction was conducted by the responsible person for the respective device who showed us the right way to operate it and pointed out the respective hazards and associated precautionary measures. It has to be given to any person that has not worked with this device before.

Laws and Regulations

Paragraph symbol.
Local Regulations mainly represent the given laws and are designed to obey them. They include the safety requirements, laboratory guidelines and responsibilities that are required by law. For further information about the local regulations, please note the national regulations, and the instruction manuals of the “Gentechnikgesetz” (GenTG), the “Gentechnik-Sicherheitsverordnung” (GenTSV) and the Gefahrstoffverordnung” (GefStoffV).

Risks of used Organisms

Biohazard symbol.
As part of the safety management we decided to utilize only safety strains of model organisms that are classified and approved for laboratories with biosafety level 1 (BSL 1). This is more suited in terms of safety aspects and reflects also the open source character of iGEM as those organisms can be used in every standard biotechnology lab. The classification is according to the “Gentechnik-Sicherheitsverordnung” (GenTSV) §7.
To keep possible risks preferably low, we constantly had conversations with our instructors, PIs and different experts on their respective fields about biosafety, various regulations and hazardous potential of organisms.

Organism Strain Domain Biosafety level
Saccharomyces cerevisiae INVSc1 Fungi BSL 1
Saccharomyces paradoxus N44 Fungi BSL 1
Saccharomyces paradoxus 5696 Fungi BSL 1
Aspergillus niger AB1.13 Fungi BSL 1
Aspergillus niger AB4.1 (pyrG-) Fungi BSL 1
Aspergillus nidulans RMS011 Fungi BSL 1
Escherichia coli DH5α Bacteria BSL 1
Escherichia coli ER2566 Bacteria BSL 1
Escherichia coli KRX Bacteria BSL 1
Triticum aestivum L. KWS Fontas - Plant N/A

Risk of release and spreading of genetically modified organisms was minimized by autoclaving accruing waste and used vessels.