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This FAQ is intended to provide a central place for "Plain English" Safety Guidelines that are relevant to DIYBiologists. We want to collect and annotate links and info, training videos, lists of where to get or how to make safety enclosures and equipment, links to downloadable material safety data sheets, lists of suppliers and agencies and safety companies (such as disposal), and so on. But the key thing is that it would be tailored for the DIYBiologist. (further discussion on this topic)

This page is maintained by Charlie Schick. (and I'm currently adding things, so things are pretty early-stage at the moment - CS, 02jan10)

Safety first

There are two main reasons to be safety-conscious in DIYBio: 1) It's about you, 2) It's about everyone else.

Safety pre-flight check-list

This is a short and simple check-list that everyone should fill out before starting a DIYBio project. Its goal is to make people be mindful of the safety issues in their project and document their preparation. We are still discussing what questions these should be, so this is just a proposal. Ideally, this list would be an online form that folks could fill in and then be part of a browsable database of projects (CS - what could we use?).

DIYBio Safety Pre-Project Check-List v. 0.1

  1. Name of project:
  2. Purpose of project:
  3. What are the hazards of the project (biohazards, waste disposal, personal safety):
  4. How have you prepared for the hazards of the project:

Workplace safety

Working space


Biosafety is classified based on containment level, dictated by the pathogenicity of the organisms being used in the laboratory. There are four biosafety levels as specified by the Centers for Disease Control in the US (there are similar biosafety levels specified in the EU).

The simplest level is Biosafety Level 1 (BL1).

From Wikipedia:

Biosafety level 1

This level is suitable for work involving well-characterized agents not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adult humans, and of minimal potential hazard to laboratory personnel and the environment. It includes several kinds of bacteria and viruses including canine hepatitis, non-pathogenic Escherichia coli, as well as some cell cultures and non-infectious bacteria. At this level precautions against the biohazardous materials in question are minimal, most likely involving gloves and some sort of facial protection. The laboratory is not necessarily separated from the general traffic patterns in the building. Work is generally conducted on open bench tops using standard microbiological practices. Usually, contaminated materials are left in open (but separately indicated) rubbish receptacles. Decontamination procedures for this level are similar in most respects to modern precautions against everyday microorganisms (i.e., washing one's hands with anti-bacterial soap, washing all exposed surfaces of the lab with disinfectants, etc.). In a lab environment all materials used for cell and/or bacteria cultures are decontaminated via autoclave. Laboratory personnel have specific training in the procedures conducted in the laboratory and are supervised by a scientist with general training in microbiology or a related science.

For most DIYBio purposes, BL1 is sufficient. The higher biosafety levels are for work with organisms that are pathogenic to humans and therefore require dedicated isolation of the workspace, special containment equipment, trained personnel, and special disposal requirements.


Material safety

Acids and bases


Equipment safety

Flammable storage

Disposal safety


Toxic waste