Team:Cardiff Wales/health and safety

Health and Safety

Our team has been working in the Molecular Biology Research laboratories in the School of Bioscience at Cardiff University. Research carried out in these laboratories includes plant cell biology, basic microbiology, molecular biology and genetic engineering.

Before beginning our work, we were given a health and safety briefing by our supervisor (Geraint Parry) which allowed us to appreciate any potential risks associated with the lab side of our project. At our safety induction, these were the main hazards discussed;
Procedural risks:

  • Use of group 1 microorganisms - Escherichia coli and Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • Handling of hot liquids
  • Use of gel electrophoresis equipment
  • Storage of samples in the -80 °C freezer
  • Use of top loading autoclave
  • Hand held UV source
  • Use of sharp equipment
  • Use of centrifuges
  • Chemical risks:

  • Use of strong acids and bases
  • Use of chemical mutagens
  • Use of phenolics
  • Use of flammable chemicals around open flame source
  • Use of liquid nitrogen
  • Use of toxic chemicals

  • Experimental design to reduce risk

  • For cloning/movement of genetic material we have used a group 1 microorganism, a non-pathogenic strain of E.coli - DH5α
  • Transformation of bacteria was carried out using a heat shock approach rather than the more dangerous electroporation procedure

  • Unusual experiments/safety issues

  • The use of the chemical B-ME during His-tag purification of the TSHantag. B-ME is a highly toxic and corrosive chemical which is capable of damage to internal organs if inhaled. Any work involving B-ME was carried out within a fume cupboard
  • Infiltration of plants with Agrobacterium tumefaciens was carried out in an isolated work space to avoid unintended contact between Agrobacterium and other plants within the lab
  • The use of liquid nitrogen involved careful handling and disposal within a fume cupboard

  • Safe lab work

    The team was very conscious about lab safety, and always used the relevant safety equipment where appropriate. Safety essentials:

  • Protective equipment including safety glasses, lab coats and gloves
  • Fume hoods used where necessary
  • No food or drink in the lab
  • Thoroughly disinfecting hands before exiting the lab
  • Clean/uncluttered work spaces
  • Autoclaving all waste and equipment before and after use
  • Hair tied back
  • Immediately cleaning up spillages

  • Biosecurity:

    The use/production/disposal of genetically modified organisms was regulated adhering to UK and EU legislation regarding genetic modification.

    Waste management:
    Any waste generated from our time in the lab was disposed of depending on the category of the waste:

  • General waste – Re-used and recycled where possible, otherwise destined for landfill.
  • Chemical waste – Disposed of following the Cardiff School of Biosciences chemical waste disposal system. Gaseous waste was released into a fume hood before correct disposal of the container.
  • Biological waste – A large amount of microbial and plant waste was generated from our time in the lab, this was auto-claved or incinerated where appropriate.