EtBr safety procedures

R.G. Walters mbrgw at s-crim1.dl.ac.uk
Fri Jun 11 10:33:36 EST 1993


In article <1993Jun11.145646.501 at alw.nih.gov> Jim Owens <jow at helix.nih.gov> writes:
>We have a Biosafety Level 2 room with similar problems, mostly due to
>users not cleaning up after themselves.  Both this room and the radiation
>room are routinely very warm, making it uncomfortable to wear labcoats. 
>Yet, the powers that be - lab chief and section chiefs - have not
>requested the installation of supplementary cooling except in their own
>offices.  In fact, an air conditioner was removed from the Biosafety
>Level 2 room to cool the office of the section chief "in charge" of it!  
>
>It seems to be a function of overcrowding.  Too many people from our lab
>of 50 workers use the common facilities.  The people nominally in charge
>rarely, if ever, work in the rooms so they tend to overlook the
>violations of their own rules.  It is too much trouble to track down the
>unknown offenders.  Not Me and Ida Know seem to be our worst offenders. 
>When I objected, it was too much trouble for the "responsible" person to
>enforce the rules so I was asked to do it.  When I did, the offender
>complained to the "responsible" person who backed them up, because "You
>don't expect me to tell them they can't use the room."

I don't know how things are in the States, but not long ago one whole
department was closed down for a while (in Reading, I think - anyone have
any more info?), for contravening safety regulations.  I don't think the
"You can't seriously mean to stop any of us doing any work" line cut much
ice.  Another department was fined several thousand pounds when a student
contaminated himself with P32.  Slapdash safety doesn't just endanger the
user, but encourages unsafe practices in those who are still technically
being trained.

>It worries me that our people's attitude is that the regulations for
>hazardous materials are stumbling blocks on the road to scientific
>progress.  When they are ignored or violated I am afraid that if someday
>the violations are discovered my coworkers response will be in public as
>they have been in private: we are scientists and we know the risks we are
>running better than the bureaucratic rulemakers.  This virus construct
>can't possibly harm anyone, therfore, the rules are irrational and can be
>ignored. 

Rather like the cloning of an active oncogene into SV40 in an uncontrolled
environment. This happened at the Pasteur Institute, I believe, and several
workers and several members of the public "caught" cancer. I don't know if
any of them died.  With proper regulation, this would never have been
sanctioned.


Robin Walters.                      Robert Hill Institute, Sheffield UK.

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