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Advice to Students & Employees in Microbiology Laboratories

What can I do to help keep myself safe in a microbiology laboratory?

  • Know that bacteria used in microbiology laboratories can make you or others who live in your household sick, especially young children, even if they have never visited the laboratory.
    • If you work in a microbiology laboratory, you could bring bacteria home through contaminated lab coats, pens, notebooks, personal electronic devices, and other items that you use in the laboratory.
    • Do not take personal items like car keys, purses, or cell phones into the laboratory. These items may get contaminated.
    • To limit contamination, do not take laboratory supplies outside of the laboratory area.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, apply makeup, or touch your contact lenses in a microbiology laboratory.
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, or mouth in a microbiology laboratory.
  • Wear a lab coat or other protective garment over personal clothing when working in a laboratory.
  • Wash hands often while working in a microbiology laboratory and immediately before leaving it. Follow proper handwashing practices.
  • If you work with Salmonella bacteria in a laboratory, know that these bacteria can make you sick.
    • Look for signs & symptoms of Salmonella infection, such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
    • Contact your healthcare provider if you or a family member has any of these symptoms.

Advice to Faculty Involved with Laboratories that Handle Infectious Agents

  • Either nonpathogenic or attenuated bacterial strains should be used when possible, especially in teaching laboratories. This practice will help reduce the risk of students and their family members becoming ill.
    • The laboratory should perform a thorough cleaning and decontamination of any potentially contaminated surfaces after students or employees work with pathogenic microorganisms.
  • People working with infectious agents, including Salmonella bacteria, must be informed of any potential hazards and should be trained and proficient in the biosafety practices and techniques required for safe handling of these agents.
    • All students and employees using the laboratory should be trained in biosafety practices before working in the laboratory.
    • Students and staff should wear gloves when working with infectious agents.
    • Do not allow lab coats to be removed from the laboratory, except to be cleaned by the institution.
    • Ensure that handwashing sinks have soap and paper towels. Require students and employees to wash their hands before leaving the laboratory.
  • Do not allow food, drinks, or personal items like car keys, and personal electronic items to be consumed or used in the laboratory.
    • Provide students with dedicated writing utensils, paper, and other supplies for laboratory use only. These items should not be allowed to leave the laboratory.
  • Advise everyone working in the laboratory to watch for symptoms of Salmonella infection, such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and to call their healthcare provider if they or a family member have any of these symptoms.

A key guidance document was developed for work with Salmonella and other human pathogens in laboratories. This and other tools can be found on the Key Resources page.