EtBr safety procedures

R.G. Walters mbrgw at
Fri Jun 11 10:33:36 EST 1993

In article <1993Jun11.145646.501 at> Jim Owens <jow at> 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

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

Robin Walters.                      Robert Hill Institute, Sheffield UK.

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