Laboratory Safety

In case of any emergency dial 5555 from the white phone in front of lab.

General biology lab safety procedures

  • No eating, drinking or chewing gum in the biology labs (rooms 403, 404, 406 AND 408). The best way to experience the full hazardous potential of a material is to ingest it.
  • If you’re unsure of the potential hazard of a chemical, refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) located in a yellow binder at the front of room 404.
  • No open-toed shoes in the lab.
  • Do not work in the lab when there is no instructor present. In some special cases, a student team may be allowed to repeat a procedure without an instructor present, but at least two members of a team must be present to do this. (For any special circumstances, see instructor.)
  • Wash your hands at the end of the lab session.
  • Wear gloves when handling chemicals, cells or other reagents in the lab. It is a good idea to treat everything as potentially hazardous. Remove your gloves when handling personal items, phones, computer keyboards or doorknobs.
  • Wear your lab coat at all times in the lab. Safety glasses are available and recommended for some procedures, but optional for others.
  • Waste generated by working with cell cultures, mammalian or bacterial, is treated as biohazard waste. It must be placed into the designated biohazard (red/orange) waste containers, to be autoclaved before disposal (more below).
  • Make sure that your gas, air and vacuum valves are closed before you leave the lab.
  • Broken glass or used glass pipettes should be thrown in the broken glass containers and boxes located in rooms 404 and 406.
  • In the unlikely event of a small bench fire, do not grab the nearest ‘squirt’ bottle and squirt without reading the label, as some of the squirt bottles will be filled with ethanol, which would only make the fire spread. Always read labels before using the contents of any squirt bottle. (A bucket of ice or squirt bottle containing WATER would be better immediate choices, and of course there is a fire extinguisher at the front of the lab.)
  • Avoid distracting or startling other workers.
  • Do not allow practical jokes or horseplay.
  • Confine long hair and loose clothing in the laboratory. Do not wear any dangling jewelry (bracelets, necklaces) during lab sessions.
  • Keep work areas clean and free from obstruction. Clean up spills immediately.
  • Notify your instructor of any allergies or health related concerns, especially if you are pregnant.
  • If you are unsure about anything- ASK your instructor.

Biohazard safety

We will be working with bacteria and tissues from mammals, including humans, in the lab. Mammalian cell culture work is performed in a biosafety cabinet (aka tissue culture hood or ‘hood’). This is done largely to prevent contamination of the cells with environmental microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. You should always wear gloves when working with cell cultures to prevent contamination of the cultures. The materials used in cell culture are not dangerous to you unless ingested. All disposable materials that have been used to work with cultured cells, bacterial and mammalian, should be placed in orange/red biohazard containers. These are considered “biohazard waste” and must be sterilized by autoclaving prior to their disposal.

Working with chemicals

We will be working with a number of different chemicals during the semester. Most of these chemicals are not harmful; however there are some that require special handling (ethidium bromide, 2-mercaptoethanol). Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) give important information about chemical handling and possible potential hazards of specific chemicals. When working with chemicals wear gloves and lab coats; safety glasses are available for those who wish to use them. We have a MSDS for each of the chemicals that are in the lab, which are located in the yellow binders in the front of room 404. (MSDS sheets are also available on-line, and are probably more easily accessed in that manner.) You should know where these are and consult them as needed.

Chemical Exposure


If any substance is introduced into your eyes, IMMEDIATELY get assistance and go to the eyewash station that is located at the end of each bench at the sink. The eyewashes work by pulling them forward (make sure that rubber stoppers are removed).


If you get a potentially toxic substance on your hands or arms, flush with cold water, over the sink, for 15 minutes. If there is a large amount of a substance spilled on you (for example strong acids or bases), IMMEDIATELY get assistance; blot/absorb the excess acid or base from your skin with paper towels or any absorbent material present, remove any contaminated clothing, and use the emergency shower located at the back of the laboratory. Rinse yourself for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Ultraviolet Light

Exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) can cause acute eye irritation in addition to skin damage. Since the retina cannot detect UV light, you can have serious eye damage and not realize it until 30 min to 24 hours after exposure. ALWAYS wear appropriate eye protection (goggles, or better yet- a face shield) and avoid skin exposure when using UV lamps. (In all likelihood this will not pertain to us; UV exposure of our samples takes place in a closed imaging unit.)


The voltages used for electrophoresis are sufficient to cause electrocution. Cover the buffer reservoirs during electrophoresis. Always turn off the power supply and unplug the leads before removing a gel.

Cuts and Punctures

Handling glassware and pipettes in the laboratory can be quite dangerous. Much of the laboratory glassware is delicate and easily broken, which contributes to cuts and punctures. Many glass cuts occur when attempting to force a glass pipette into a pipet-aid or force open a lid on a bottle or jar.

As in all things, don’t use unnecessary force. Inspect glassware for chips and cracks that will weaken the glass. Discard the damaged glass in the broken glass box and ask for new glassware. If you are rinsing glassware always use the brushes to clean the inside (as opposed to your hands). Avoid putting your hands inside beakers, graduated cylinders and other glass items. Always wear gloves for additional protection.

Sharps and Broken Glass

Sharps include razor blades, scalpels, and needles. Always remember to cut AWAY from your body when using them. Sharps are disposed of in a special ‘sharps’ disposal box. If you break any type of glassware, take care of yourself first, then CLEAN UP the broken glass to prevent others from cutting themselves. All broken glass is deposited in the broken glass box in the laboratory.

Safety equipment and contact information

The best immediate treatment for corrosive chemicals on the skin or eyes is thorough flushing with water, because water is quickly available. Eye accidents should always be examined by a physician, as should severe or extensive skin burns. The use of goggles during laboratory procedures minimizes the risk of serious eye injury.

You should know the locations of the:

  • safety showers (back of the labs in rooms 404 and 406)
  • eyewashes (at all sinks at the end of lab benches in rooms 404 and 406, as well as in room 403, 405 and 407); The eyewashes work by pulling them forward (make sure that rubber stoppers are removed).
  • fire extinguishers (front of rooms 406 and 404)
  • fire alarms (by stairwell at the end of the hall)
  • first aid kits (front of rooms 406 and 404). The First Aid kits contain bandaids and lotions for minor injuries.

In the case of an emergency, call the Babson Police (781-239-5555).

The white phones at the front of the room (left side, as you’re facing front) are for internal emergency calls only. From these phones, dial 9 for outside line; 5555 for Babson police

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