Safety First


It is important to consider several different factors when doing larger projects involving laboratory work, especially safety. Working in the laboratory using many different chemicals, methods and machines poses potential safety risks. If not handled correctly it could lead to harm on people, the environment or the entire building. Additionally, the pandemic has created several new aspects to consider, where hosting events requires way more considerations than it normally would.

Safety in the Lab

Safety training in the laboratory

To be allowed access to the laboratory, basic lab safety training and assessments was required for us to complete. This included reading risk assessment papers and writing risk declarations but also attending lectures and tours of the laboratory. Machines were introduced by the person responsible for the machine, or by our supervisors. This included instructions for how machines are used, where they are located, where equipment is located, waste handling, chemicals handling, how to act in case of emergency or accidents and general rules of conducts.

Each experiment required a risk declaration made by the team. It then had to be reviewed and revised by us before being signed off by our PI and the head responsible of the lab. The risk declarations included which chemicals were intended to be used, potential safety risks regarding the chemical, how to process or use the chemical, how long it should and can be stored, how much we intended to use of a chemical as well as waste handling.

Each risk declaration was written by part of the team, or by all of us. All risk declarations have been reviewed by each team member, especially by those whose name have been added as authors, discussed and revised. The risk declarations all include a summary of which risk assessment documents have been read prior to writing the risk declaration. The risk assessment documents (provided by Sysbio Chalmers KLARA system) have all been included below, except for the Guava machine which was not included in the safety regulations, and instead the user guideline is provided (read more below).

Additionally, extra restrictions were introduced in the laboratory due to the pandemic. One such restriction included that a maximum two 2 people could be in the same room, if the room was too small. There was also a restriction regarding how many people in total could be in the laboratory at once and face masks were required to wear at all times. Of course, our team followed those restrictions strictly as well as made internal restrictions that we should not be more than 2 – 3 persons from the team in the laboratory at any time.

Safety Guidelines

Chalmers sysbio safety guideline

Risk Declarations

Risk declaration Induction systems Download docx File
Risk declaration: general lab (Fanny, Edwin, Olof, Erik) Download docx File
Risk declaration: general lab (Lina, Robin, Xi) Download docx File
Risk declaration Download docx File
Risk declaration Download docx File
Risk declaration (Christer)

Risk Assessments

Benchtop autoclave
Cell sorter
LB plates and media
PCR thermal cycler
Plate Reader
Using the guava machine did not require any risk decleration or assesements to be signed, but required instead a special introduction as well as a deep understanding of how the machine functions. Below is the quick guide of the Guava machine.
Guava quick Guide

Safety outside the Lab

Nordic iGEM conference

The pandemic has provided several difficulties when considering hosting events, and as such we had to have several discussions and brainstorming sessions regarding our main event, the Nordic iGEM Conference (NiC). Several things had to be considered regarding the safety of how we would host the conference, taking into account both us hosting and the teams attending.

We chose to host NiC as a semi-live event, e.g., both providing a live version (inviting a restricted amount of people from each team) but also streaming it online. We decided on this after consulting both with teams from other countries as well as from Sweden, and with one of the iGEM ambassadors. We had to especially consider possible consequences of other countries teams travelling to Sweden, for instance if a team from one country were to come, they then would have to quarantine going back. In Sweden no quarantine was required at the time of the event. In the end we asked one team from each participating Nordic country to host an event it in their respective city while we streamed the event and let a maximum of 10 people from each teams in Sweden join in person (although we let one team have more since other teams had less than 10 arriving).

As for the people coming to Gothenburg, our home city where the main event was hosted, we had to consider how to let people join and interact as much as possible without being physically close, limiting risk of spreading covid. To accomplish this, we let each team have their separate room, with a maximum capacity of at least ten times the size of the team allocated to that room. We offered several large, open spaces for hang-out during the brakes and during the late night mingling we asserted that the rooms were large enough to host as many people as were present, considering the safe distance recommendation provided by our government. We also made sure to collect contact information to all people attending the event in case infection tracing had to be performed.

Additionally, hosting an event at Chalmers University of Technology requires understanding and performing standard safety procedures, including fire safety measures. At least 3 of the hosts have undergone the fire safety training provided by Chalmers, a risk declaration has been written and approved, fire extinguishers and safety exit doors and a meeting place in case of a fire have been located and discussed and the whole team has knowledge of these safety measures. In case of emergency information has then been forwarded to the visiting teams. The booked rooms have also been checked to have proper air conditioning systems and food that might induce strong allergic reactions have been advised to not bring.
Risk assesements for NiC (in swedish) Download excel File

High school visits

All schools we visited have had certain regulations regarding visits. We have followed each of them as provided by the contact person from the school and have deliberately avoided holding presentations for multiple classes at once, rather visiting twice if needed. This to minimise the amount of people in the same room at once.

While online lectures could be a valid choice of hosting, after consulting with the contact person of each school we still chose to visit in person. After thorough consideration we decided to visit the schools in person as we thought the students would gain more from seeing us in person if possible, since it is easier to interact with the students in real life.

iGEM Safety Rules

As an addition to the rules provided by Chalmers and the Sysbio lab, we have also made sure to follow the safety regulations provided by iGEM. We have carefully considered the Check-in rules, and concluded that the organisms we use all are whitelisted. We provided the safety form well on time as well as all other required safety forms and deadlines. In case of being uncertain of using a certain part, we have carefully consulted first with supervisors or PI beforehand, and if still uncertain we planned to consult with the iGEM safety teams, highly prioritising safety.