How Safe Is Your Teaching Lab? Give It a Checkup during National Biosafety Month!

Oct. 23, 2016

October is National Biosafety Month, and with the fall semester well underway, this is a great time to evaluate your teaching lab biosafety plans and practices and see whether any changes are warranted. In the past, the lack of a standard set of biosafety guidelines for microbiology teaching labs led educators and institutions to develop their own plans. In 2013, after two years of development and an outbreak of Salmonella infections that was traced to teaching labs, ASM released Guidelines for Biosafety in Teaching Laboratories. As is the case with all ASM guidelines for educators, the Biosafety Guidelines are free and were developed by, for, and with the education community. The Biosafety Guidelines are based on the requirements found in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (CDC BMBL) publication, and represent best practices for using microbes in the teaching lab. Clear, consistent, and brief plans for safely handling microbes at both biosafety level 1 (BSL1) and at biosafety level 2 (BSL2) are included.

ASM offers tools to help you implement the Guidelines for Biosafety in Teaching Laboratories, including a webinar on using the Guidelines to build a culture of safety and supporting information about the Guidelines in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. Here you’ll find best practices concerning personal protective equipment, biological safety cabinets, disinfectants, and more—all geared towards the teaching lab.

October 2016 represents the third annual National Biosafety Month, begun by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Policy. NIH urges institutions to evaluate their biosafety programs, collaborate with others to promote biosafety, and remain committed to biosafety; they provide an assessment tool  and other resources to help. The CDC also provides resources for institutional use.

Author: Bethany Adamec

Bethany Adamec
Bethany Adamec is a Science Education Specialist at ASM, where she communicates about ASM’s work in student and faculty professional development, supports the ASM Education Board, and works with colleagues to promote evidence-based education reform.