Health and Safety Issues

Throughout this project we have had to adapt and adhere to certain health and safety issues – these have been both annoying and useful, but have certainly changed the path and nature of our work. Our final piece is heavily health and safety conscious, with a completely sealed box. There are some further things we should think about before we start transporting our bacteria though as we are still unaware of the identity of the bacteria, which creates some problems for us… I have managed to find the following research from sciencebuddies.org :

Bacteria are ubiquitous, and live within the human gut, and in every corner of our environment. We come in contact with bacteria on a daily basis. Hand washing is 99.9% effective at decontaminating us from bacteria that might reside on the skin. Therefore, when the proper safety precautions are taken, colonies of microorganisms can be safely isolated from homes, yards, gardens, etc. The majority of microorganisms are non-pathogenic, but bacterial cultures or petri plates that contain any type of bacterial colonies should be treated with general safety precautions.

Another category of concern is studies involving unknown microorganisms. In science fair projects, these studies typically involve collecting and culturing microorganisms from the environment (e.g. household surfaces, skin, soil). These studies present a challenge because the identity, concentration, and pathogenicity of the cultured agents are unknown. Research with unknown microorganisms can be treated as a low-risk study under the following conditions:

  1. “The organism is cultured in a plastic petri dish (or other standard non-breakable container) and sealed. Other acceptable containment apparatus include PetrifilmTM and doubled heavy duty (2-ply) sealed bags.
  2. The experiment involves only procedures in which the petri dish remains sealed throughout the experiment (e.g. counting presence of organisms or colonies).
  3. The sealed petri dish is disposed of in the appropriate matter under the supervision of the designated supervisor.” (Science Service, 2006)

If a culture of an unknown organism is opened for identification, sub-culturing, or isolation, it must be treated as a moderate-risk study and be carried out in a professional research setting under the supervision of a competent scientist who understands the risks associated with working with the microorganisms involved.

After reading this, I’m hoping we will not have too many problems – Mark has given us loads of support and has told us where we may have difficulties, for example, when transporting the bacteria from the lab to the gallery. Looking at these guidelines (I may be incorrect) but if the bags remain fully sealed and are heavy duty, everything should be okay. We have been informed that the gallery has permission to have live bacteria displayed.

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