Laboratory Safety


Da Rulz

DaRulz
Anthony Lowe, Guilford College


Rules & Regulations

Safety in a microbiology laboratory is important in the prevention of infection that might be caused by the microorganisms being studied. In addition, many of the reagents, equipment, and procedures used are potentially hazardous. Attention to proper procedures and prudent laboratory practices are required for your safety and protection.

This course does not require the use of any organisms known to be highly virulent human pathogens. However, some of the organisms used may be potentially pathogenic. This means that, although they may not cause disease in a normal healthy human, they might if the body's antimicrobial defense mechanisms are impaired. In addition, many of the organisms used in this course will be uncharacterized strains isolated from the environment - these cultures should be handled with care, because their virulence is unknown.

In addition to organisms, there are some chemicals used in this laboratory which are potentially harmful. Finally, many procedures involve equipment, glassware, open flames, and sharp objects which can cause injury if used improperly.

Although none of the organisms, procedures, or materials used in this laboratory are very dangerous, proper safety techniques and precautions should be understood and become part of your reflexive laboratory technique. The following laboratory rules and regulations should be adhered to at all times, NO EXCEPTIONS.

  1. Read and understand each laboratory exercise before you come to class.

  2. Follow precautionary statements given in each exercise.

  3. You should only have the necessary work material on the laboratory bench. Coats, backpacks, and other personal belongings will not be allowed on the laboratory bench top. Store them in a place designated by your instructor or in your laboratory cabinet. This is to prevent cluttering of the workspace and to avoid exposing them to permanent stains, caustic chemicals, and microorganisms used in the exercises.

  4. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew pens in the laboratory.

  5. You must wear shoes while in the laboratory.

  6. Long hair should be tied back so that it does not catch fire in a Bunsen burner flame and does not fall into sterile media.

  7. Wipe your bench top with disinfectant at the beginning and end of every laboratory period.

  8. Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the laboratory.

  9. Spills should be cleaned immediately. Spills of reagents should be cleaned using paper towels, followed by a complete rinse with water. If the chemical is marked 'danger' or 'caustic' you should also notify the instructor.

  10. Immediately report all accidents such as spills, cuts, burns, or other injuries to the instructor.

  11. Know the location of the fire extinguisher and eye wash station.

  12. Leave all laboratory facilities and equipment in good order at the end of each class. Before leaving the laboratory, check to make sure the gas to the Bunsen burner is turned off.

  13. Never, under any circumstances, remove equipment, media, or microbial cultures from the laboratory.

  14. No pets are allowed in the laboratory.

During the course of the semester in the laboratory you will be taught the methods used in the proper handling of microorganisms. Although you will not be working with any that are human pathogens, exercise caution in handling all material coming in contact with live microbial cultures. All cultures should be handled with respect and good technique as if they were potential pathogens. Specific instructions which should be followed are:

  1. Cultures or reagents should not be mouth-pipetted; a pipette bulb or automatic pipettor should be attached to the pipette.

  2. Always keep cultures capped and in proper storage racks or small buckets when not being used during an exercise.

  3. Never place a contaminated pipette, inoculating loop, or any other contaminated material on the bench top. Flame loops before and after each use. Place used pipettes in the buckets containing disinfectant. Place all other contaminated materials in their designated containers. Do not place or put anything containing live cultures in the sink.

  4. Aerosols should be avoided by the use of proper technique for flaming inoculating loops and by performing any mixing of cultures and reagents in such a way as to avoid splashing.

  5. If you spill material containing live microorganisms, pour disinfectant on the spill and notify the laboratory instructor immediately.

  6. Cultures of live microorganisms and any material coming in contact with live cultures must be properly sterilized after use in the laboratory. Your instructor will inform you of specific procedures. Follow the general rules outlined below.

    1. Glassware such as test tubes, bottles, flasks, and pipettes, is reused and washed after sterilization. These are normally placed on a cart at the front of the laboratory after you have finished an experiment or exercise. Be sure to remove labels before placing any glassware on the cart. Your instructor will sterilize and then wash these items.

    2. Some materials, such as plastic petri dishes, plastic pipettes, microscope slides, and swabs, are considered disposable. These are used once and if they become contaminated by contact with live microorganisms are sterilized and discarded. All of these disposable contaminated materials should be placed in the designated waste container containing an orange biohazard autoclave bag.

  7. Clothing worn in the microbiology laboratory should not be subsequenly worn in a facility such as a hospital, clinic, or nursing home, or in an area of public food preparation.


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