Safety Safety Safety Safety

The University of Westminster has a full range of safety documents relating to all laboratory safety issues. Protocols range from the appropriate behaviour in the laboratory to the correct procedure for handling spills. Safety is an important aspect of lab work however it can easily be forgotten or just ignored as many students find it tedious and boring. To prevent injury safety should always be taken seriously as there are many hazards in the lab; from chemicals to microorganisms. These are some of the basic rules and regulations provided by our safety officer, Keith Redway, that we followed when working with microorganism:


  1. At all times you must be properly attired in the laboratory in an appropriate laboratory coat which must be correctly fastened at all times. The School of Biosciences provides laboratory coats for students. These MUST be put on a coat hanger and returned to the rack after use, and NOT thrown on the bench or floor.
    You must wear any other protective clothing (e.g. gloves, masks, safety spectacles, visors) as instructed by the member of staff in charge.

  2. You must not eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in the laboratory, on any laboratory floors, on stairs, or in lifts.
  3. You must not suck or bite pencils or pens. You must not wear sandals, cumbersome jewellery or hats.
  4. You must not lick labels prior to sticking them to apparatus (use tap water, self-adhesive labels or marker pen).
  5. Avoid touching your face, hair, eyes, mouth, etc. whilst in the laboratory. Long hair must be tied back.
  6. You must keep your available bench space clear, clean, tidy and free of inessential clutter, e.g. books.
  7. You must not remove any materials from the laboratory, e.g. microbial cultures, without the permission of the lecturer in charge.
  8. Manipulations by loop or pipette should be performed in a manner to minimise the production of aerosols.
  9. Pipetting by mouth of any material is forbidden. You must always use the teats, syringes, and pipette-fillers provided.
  10. All manipulations should be performed aseptically, using plugged pipettes, and the contaminated pipettes disposed of in the containers indicated by the lecturer in charge.
  11. Contaminated glassware, plastic ware, microscope slides and discarded Petri dishes, etc. must be placed in the receptacles indicated by the lecturer in charge.
  12. It should be recognised that certain procedures or equipment produce aerosols of contaminated material, e.g. the breaking of any fluid film, centrifugation and the agitation of fluids in shaking or orbital incubators.
  13. Report all personal accidents, minor cuts and abrasions, breakages and spillages of cultures and reagents to the lecturer in charge. Cuts and abrasions must be protected by an adequate waterproof dressing.
  14. If instructed, before leaving your bench, swab the area down with an appropriate disinfectant.
  15. Before leaving the laboratory, return personal protective clothing, hang up your lab coat correctly, and wash your hands with soap (preferably germicidal).


Further information about Safety

Our project

During our project we used the appropriate lab safety protocols. Our project did not pose any serious risk to anyone’s health because we are working with level 1 organisms, Escherichia coli, and low hazardous chemicals. We used genes from a Level 2 organism, Serratia marcescens, however we received the genes from, Prof. Frank Sargent, cloned in E. coli so we did not handle the organism ourselves. The genes are not pathogenic and thus do not raise any threats to anyone’s health. When disposing of any possible toxic chemicals, tips, petri dishes with growth and any other disposable lab equipment that may have made contact with microorganisms or possible toxic chemicals we used a separate waste bin which is firstly autoclaved and then discarded as waste. This ensures organisms do not accidently escape and grow outside the laboratory. Also prevents people who are highly susceptible to certain chemicals from making contact with the chemicals as they will not be wearing protective clothing and may react badly.

Our BioBricks

None of our BioBricks pose a threat to our team, any staff member or student. Our BioBricks only raise safety issues to organisms with a chitin exoskeleton however we have taken this into consideration when designing our construct and are planning on including safety mechanisms to prevent, as much possible, the targeting of non-target organisms. One of our ideas is induced lysis of our engineered species.

Our University

University of Westminster has a biological safety officer, Keith Redway, who deals with lab safety and keeps a check on whether or not the rules are being followed. We were working in an environment surrounded by researchers and PhD students who were also keeping an eye on what we were doing and making sure we followed the rules of the lab and that we were not a treat to ourselves and anyone else.

The iGEM

Future iGEM kits could be provided with a variety of kill switches and various other safety parts. Some teams may find it difficult to produce their own safety parts and by providing these parts it ensures that if accidently a BioBrick did leave the lab it would not pose a threat to the environment, and any organism that may be targeted by the BioBricks. This may also prevent the iGEM from being subjected to bad press. There may be a possibility in the future that a team might accidently release a part into the environment that may cause some considerable damage. By providing safety parts it decreases the chances of accidents occurring.


safety page.

Many thanks to our Sponsors

by Westminster iGEM 2013