GENERAL LABORATORY SAFETY
Safety is a crucial factor in scientific research. To minimize the possible risk of laboratory-related danger, we took the requirements of lab work and project safety very seriously. Before starting lab work, we studied safety protocols and analyzed the safety level of the laboratory and classified it as Biosafety level 1. Then we read and learned to apply and utilize the safety protocols, which ought to be carried out at this level of Biosafety:
- decontamination of materials before disposal, using an autoclave;
- personal protective equipment (lab coats, eye protection, and gloves);
- mechanical pipetting only;
- the prohibition of food, drinks, and any smokable materials, etc.
Furthermore, laboratory team members had previously worked in laboratories of the same biosafety level; hence, they were highly-experienced and familiar with the work requirements.
SAFE PROJECT DESIGN
Since our laboratory was classified as Biosafety level 1, all experiments during the development of the “Colight” were carried out using only well-characterized and non-pathogenic Escherichia coli strains (E. coli DH5α, TG1, BL21 (DE3), Arctic Express (DE3) and Nissle 1917).
SAFE LABORATORY WORK
- Laboratory team members were provided with personal protective equipment: lab coats, eyewear, and enclosed footwear were used to minimize the possibility of skin contact area with harmful substances. Before leaving the lab, the team made sure to disinfect and sterilize their clothing to prevent the contamination of the external environment
- Specific safety equipment: the locations and operating procedures of emergency showers and eyewashes, as well as the fire extinguisher and the panic button
- Waste disposal: the team was introduced to autoclaving protocols and specific chemical waste disposal protocols according to the compounds used
- Chemical safety: the locations and appropriate storage methods for both flammable and potentially hazardous chemicals, as well as the required working environment protocols to handle these substances: working in a functioning fume hood, etc.
SPECIFIC LABORATORY SAFETY
Some experimental techniques required the use of UV light or usage of compounds, requiring additional safety protocols. All necessary precautions were taken to prevent harm.
UV light: We used the UV light both to sterilize our laminar flow hoods and equipment, as well as for DNA purification from agarose gels. Our team members wore protective glasses, which fell under the personal protective equipment criteria. Due to very few personal close-up encounters with UV and taken safety precautions, we completely minimized the possible hazards of encountering UV light in the lab. Also, to minimize the contact time with the UV light, we introduced blue light transilluminators to common laboratory procedures.
Ethidium Bromide: This compound is a potent mutagen and is moderately toxic after acute exposure. Therefore, the lab team took it upon themselves to familiarize themselves with the appropriate procedures that are required to handle cases of spills or acute exposures. These procedures included working in a functioning fume hood and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize the chance of exposure, as well as extensively studying the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for Ethidium Bromide. We disposed of the product in accord with the disposal protocols and the state safety regulations.
Antibiotics: We used a few main antibiotics for the selection procedure. According to the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for ampicillin, chloramphenicol, and kanamycin, these compounds are known to have hazardous effects at high concentrations and both acute and chronic exposure to humans via inhalation, ingestion, or contact with eyes. Therefore, the team wore personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling the compound, studied the safety protocols, and were equipped with the necessary information to handle spills, acute exposures, and disposed of the product in accord with the disposal protocols as well as the state safety regulations.