The Five Most Important Laboratory Precautions for Microbiologists
The crucial steps to safety in the lab should be reviewed often. It is for the safety of lab technicians and the quality of experimental results that the following five steps be followed in every microbiological experiment. Keep in mind that different laboratories should provide additional safety requirements and processes to ensure experimental success.
Proceed with Caution
Though many microorganisms have been tested and deemed safe for humans, there is always a chance for certain microorganisms to act as pathogens under the right conditions (source). Additionally, the health and previous conditions of the person(s) performing the experiment could result in an unfavorable reaction with certain substances. Treat all microorganisms with caution and avoid needless injuries.
Before, during, and after conducting an experiment disinfect everything that will be used. Some recommended disinfectants are “10% bleach or 70% ethanol solutions” (source). No matter what substance is used to clean, be sure it won’t affect the results of the experiment or react violently during lab tasks i.e. burning, cooling, etc.
Make sure hair, clothing, eyes, and skin are protected from harm. No loose articles of clothing or long hair should be exposed to any hazards. When developing an experiment, pay attention to potential risks and plan ahead. When in the lab don’t get distracted with tasks that could be done at a different time, focus on the experiment and take notes on all observations, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time.
Label, Label, Label
Names, dates, and safety instructions should always be labeled clearly. From cultures to test tubes, every item used in the lab should be easily identifiable by an outsider. Even if it may seem excessive, a small sticker could save lots of trouble and potential harm.
Dispose of Substances Correctly
Autoclaves are the best method for sterilization of lab equipment. Following a lab, autoclave any and all items used by placing them in biohazard bags (see: Troy Biologicals) and allowing time for the process. Know the specific disposal methods for every microorganism or chemical used in the lab, these should be recorded on the labels and available to every staff member. Adhering to proper cleaning and disposal methods will improve the quality and safety of all experiments conducted in the lab.