iGEM TU Eindhoven

Lab Safety
Safety Level

BioSafety levels are a set of precautions required in laboratories where scientists are working with biological agents. There are four different levels, from causing a minimal risk to humans (level 1) to causing severe to fatal diseases (level 4).1

Our iGEM team has access to one of the labs with a BioSafety Level 1 on the TU Eindhoven campus: the ML-I laboratory. In this lab, it is allowed to work with micro-organisms which normally do not cause any disease to humans. Most of the work in this lab involves recombinant expression of proteins in E. coli or yeast expression systems, and the application of bacteriophages for phage display.

Safety measures and rules

There are some rules in our lab regarding Biosafety. They are listed below. The more elaborate Biosafety rules of our lab are listed here.

  • Keep windows and doors shut.
  • Keep everything clean and tidy, make sure enough disinfectant is present.
  • Always wear a marked and closed lab coat, which is not permitted outside the lab. The lab coats have to be sterilized by autoclaving before sending it to the laundry.
  • Do not wear any watches or jewellery, or keep them covered by gloves or a lab coat. Bags, laptops etc. are not allowed and can be stored outside the lab in lockers.
  • Avoid any contact between your hands and your face. Do not eat, drink or smoke inside the laboratory. Storing food or drinks is also not allowed.
  • Avoid formation of aerosols. Mix and centrifuge in closed tubes. The use of a needle is allowed only when no other method is available.
  • Pipetting with the mouth is not allowed; use the available equipment (pipette boy or pipette bulb).
  • Always disinfect your working space before and at the end of your activities.
  • After contamination of your working space (e.g. when you spill any biological material) disinfect the working space.
  • After working with biological agents and when leaving the laboratory, always wash your hands with water and soap.
  • All re-usable materials that were in contact with biological materials have to be sterilized before being washed or discarded.
  • Solid biological material is gathered in the red biohazard bags, transferred in blue containers and disposed of as special garbage. Liquid biological waste has to be autoclaved before it can be discarded.
  • All accidents and spills, and activities with GMOs or human material have to be reported in the appropriate logbook.

When working in the lab, the team is obligatory to wear long pants, closed shoes, safety glasses and a lab coat as mentioned above.

Different gloves are worn depending on the materials the team is working with, for example Nitrile when working with heavy metals or Latex to protect DNA against DNAses and prevent contamination of the samples. Moreover, cryo-gloves and heat-resistant gloves are available for working with cold and hot materials respectively. Most of the time, Latex gloves are used.

Disposing waste in the proper ways is an important aspect of safety too. In our lab, there are three different kinds of waste: normal waste, chemical waste and biohazard. The normal waste bin is only used when waste has not been in contact with any chemicals or biohazard material. In the chemical waste all chemicals that have not been in contact with microorganisms, viruses or toxins can be disposed. In the biohazard everything which has been in contact with microorganisms, viruses or toxins will be transferred into blue hospital containers. When these containers are full they are closed and labelled before they are being disposed as special waste.

Most of the lab work can be performed on an open bench. Certain work needs to be done under a fume hood. The fume hood is used when work involves HCl, NaOH. Material safety data sheets (MSDS) need to be considered when you are in doubt if you should use a fume hood or not.

  • [1] - Laboratory Biosafety Manual, World Health Organization, Third Edition


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