Safety Hub


Revision as of 18:24, 7 May 2014 by Kdrinkwa (Talk | contribs)

This page is under construction.

Some parts of this page are complete, and some are still unfinished. Unfinished parts are marked with more pink messages. You can always email safety AT igem DOT org with any questions!

Questions or feedback?
Email safety AT igem DOT org!

This page is the central hub for information about safety in iGEM 2014. From the sidebar on the left, you can access all pages related to safety for the 2014 competition.

We are developing and improving iGEM's safety practices each year. The guidelines and forms are different from last year, so please read carefully!! If you have feedback or questions, please feel free to contact us by emailing safety AT igem DOT org.


What You Should Do

First of all, you are responsible for your own safety. Throughout your project, and after we approve any of your forms, you are responsible for living up to the trust we have placed in you to handle potentially dangerous materials safely. Good judgment and proper practices are always necessary. The Safety Committee is here to help you help yourselves. We are not a substitute for the biosafety regulations of your country, or the lab safety guidelines of your university/institution.

This year, there are three main tasks you should do: the About Our Lab form, the Check-Ins, and the Safety Form. About-Our-Lab is short and easy; it is due at the beginning of summer. Check-Ins are also short and easy, and must be completed before you acquire or use certain materials in your lab -- that means you may complete them at any time until the Jamboree. The Safety Form is longer, but the final version of it is not due until the end of summer. Click on the links in the sidebar (on the left) to view and fill out these forms. See the Requirements section (below) for more information about each form.

If your project changes, you can always submit a new version of any form (About Our Lab, Check-In, or Safety Form), even after the deadline. We encourage you to update your forms if there are significant changes to your project.


  • Now: Read the Safety Hub and learn about safety in iGEM. Ask questions by emailing safety at igem DOT org .
  • Now - Jamboree: Complete Check-Ins and receive approval before acquiring and using certain materials in your lab
  • Now - Wiki Freeze: Edit the Safety page on your wiki to tell us about what you're doing
  • June 9: Submit the About Our Lab form.
  • June 30: Submit the Preliminary Version of the Safety Form. Let us know by June 25if you will need an extension on the Preliminary Version, or your Preliminary Version will be significantly incomplete.
  • Participate in Virtual Open Office Hours to ask questions and discuss safety topics (exact date to be determined).
  • September 1: Submit the Final Version of the Safety Form.
  • October: Wiki freeze (exact date to be determined)
  • October 30 - November 3: GIANT JAMBOREE!
Back to top


About-Our-Lab Form

The About-Our-Lab form is just four questions about your lab facilities and safety practices. Every team should complete an About-Our-Lab form. It is due on June 9, 2014, and it should take much less than one hour to complete.

If you are still searching for a lab space for the summer, and you will not be able to complete the About Our Lab form before the deadline, just email us before June 9 (safety AT igem DOT org), and tell us about your situation.


The biggest change this year is that we are now requiring Check-Ins before you acquire or use certain materials in your lab. Once the iGEM Safety Committee has approved your Check-In by email, you may begin working with the material (organism or part). You may Check-In for as many organisms/parts as you wish, and any team member may send a Check-In at any time until the Jamboree.

We understand that many teams began working before the Check-In form was released. If your team has already started working, you are NOT in trouble, and you do NOT need to stop working. Just submit Check-Ins as soon as you can, and in the "Further Comments" field, describe what you have already done.

Safety Form

Every team should complete a Safety Form. This form lets you show us several things:

  • That you are working responsibly in an appropriate lab.
  • That you are in contact with the biosafety authorities of your university/institution, or of your country.
  • That you are working with your advisors to ensure good lab practices.

The Safety Form also helps you think further about safety for your project as it is now, and as it might be in the future. You will complete a Preliminary Version of your safety form by June 30, and then complete a Final Version by September 1.

Any team members can write the Safety Form and save it as a draft, but only an Instructor can submit the form. We chose to use this restriction instead of requiring a paper-and-pen signature.

Tell us about safety on your wiki!

Your blank wiki includes a "Safety" page. You can customize this page to tell everyone about the ways you're being responsible in your work!

Back to top


Ask us questions!

Email safety AT igem DOT org any time, with any questions you might have! We are friendly and available, and we will do our best to answer your questions quickly. ANY team member can ask a question. You do not need to be a team advisor or representative! And you should not fear that your team will suffer consequences simply because you asked us a question. If you are confused or concerned about anything related to safety, please ask!

Virtual Open Office Hours

Participate in our Virtual Open Office Hours. These are not yet scheduled -- we will announce them here and on the main page when they are scheduled.

You will need Skype to participate.

Print Resources / Web Links

This section is under construction.
  • The WHO Biosafety Manual is available in PDF format, in several languages. Official versions: English, Français, Español, Português, 中文, Русский. Unofficial translations: Italiano, 日本語, Српски / srpski, Tiếng Việt.

Who can answer my questions about lab safety?

The iGEM safety team is a great resource, but it is not the only resource. You probably have many safety experts right next door to you! For example:

  • Your faculty advisor or team leaders
  • The laboratory manager for the place where you work
  • The safety office or Institutional Biosafety Committee at your university/institution
  • Members of your local or national government
Back to top

Learn about Lab Safety for Today

This section is under construction.

Risk Groups and BioSafety Levels

Most countries use a four-level system to classify microorganisms according to how dangerous they are to humans:

  • Risk Group 1: Low risk. These organisms are not known to cause disease in healthy adult humans. (Examples: E. coli K-12, Bacillus subtilis)
  • Risk Group 2: These organisms may cause disease to humans, but the disease is readily treatable and preventable. These organisms are unlikely to present a serious hazard to health or the environment. (Moderate risk)
  • Risk Group 3: These organisms cause serious disease in humans. Effective treatments and preventative measures (e.g. vaccinations) are available. (High risk)
  • Risk Group 4: These organisms cause serious or deadly disease in humans, and they can be easily transmitted from one individual to another. Treatments and vaccinations are NOT available. (Extreme risk)

Most countries also classify biology laboratories into four levels, based on how stringently they contain the organisms being used inside. Typically, Risk Group 1 organisms will be used in a Level 1 laboratory, Risk Group 2 organisms will be used in a Level 2 laboratory, and so on. Different countries use different names for these levels (for example: BioSafety Level (USA), Containment Level (Canada), Schutzstufe (Germany)). The specific requirements for Levels 1-4 are different in different countries, but this list gives an approximate description of each Level:

Level 1: The most basic safety procedures. Work is done on open bench tops, and workers wear basic protective equipment like rubber gloves. Photo of open bench
Level 2: Moderate safety procedures. Work is usually done in open-front biosafety cabinets. Workers may wear additional protective equipment, beyond rubber gloves and lab coats. Photo of BSC
Level 3: Strong safety procedures. Work is usually done in closed-front biosafety cabinets ("glove boxes"), and workers wear extra protective equipment such as respirators or MORE DETAIL HERE Photo of glove box
Level 4: Extreme safety procedures. More details Photo of BSL4 lab

In iGEM, Level 1 and Level 2 laboratories are commonly used. Level 3 laboratories are rarely used, only for very special circumstances. Level 4 laboratories are never used.

Please visit the Risk Group Guide to learn more about Risk Groups and BioSafety Levels.


To learn about biological risk assessment and responsible research, you can watch these two videos:

Made available through SynBERC. Video by Terry D. Johnson, based on slides by J. Christopher Anderson, both of UC Berkeley Bioengineering.

What Would YOU Do? Safety Scenarios

link Terry Johnson's assessment here

This is not a quiz, and your answers will not be graded. It is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style exploration of different safety scenarios that might occur in a real lab. Have fun!

Back to top

Learn about Safety for the Future of Your Project

This section is under construction.

Future Safety / Policy & Practices


Human Health / Medical Safety

More category here

Back to top

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is under construction.

Most of the questions we already thought of are answered in the "requirements" section. Maybe delete this section altogether. Back to top

Who is the iGEM Safety Committee?

Back to top


The iGEM Safety Committee is not a substitute for the biosafety regulations of your country, or for the lab safety guidelines of your university. You are responsible for working safely in the laboratory, and for ensuring that your project complies with local laws and university/institutional guidelines. By approving your various forms (About Our Lab form, Check-Ins, Safety Form), the iGEM Safety Committee is only affirming that your team has permission to participate in iGEM. We do not and cannot certify that your project is completely safe. Likewise, we do not and cannot certify that your project is in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations of your university/institution, local government, national government, and/or international treaties.

Back to top