„Arbeitsschutz geht alle an!“

“Safety at work concerns everybody!” As the german proverb has it, safety was always and still is an important concern of our project. Working in a biological laboratory contains various safety hazards not just for the people working there, but also for the environment. Ranging from toxic and carcinogenic substances, to boiling agarose gels, to the release of antibiotic resistant bacteria or polluting chemicals.

To avoid all those risks and harm to any involved person, every member of our team received a general safety instruction by Dr. Nicole Gensch, one of our supervisors and the safety instructor of our institute. The instruction included all the important topics concerning the work in a S1-laboratory, such as handling and disposal of S1 organisms or toxic chemicals, first aid, personal protective equipment, hygiene in the lab, possible safety hazards and much more. All lab work was performed according to the german regulations for lab safety, GUV-R 120.

I) Personal safety

At no point any member of the team was working alone or unsupervised in the lab. Personal safety equipment such as lab coats, nitrile gloves, closed shoes, and safety glasses if required was mandatory. Working with UV light and agarose gels required the additional use of an UV-protection face visor.

Consumption of and food or drinks in the lab was strictly prohibited. Regular lab cleanings ensured the prevention of contaminations of the work space. The use of toxic chemicals was avoided if procurable or replaced by safer alternatives. Every container that was in contact with harmful chemicals was clearly labeled.

II) Environmental safety

Besides the personal safety, the protection of the environment by the unwanted release of genetically modified organisms or hazardous chemicals was prevented by a clear organization of the disposal. Any biological samples were autoclaved before being disposed. All chemicals were collected in respective containers and disposed by the institute.