Big Things You Need to Know About Garage Lab Safety

Raymond McCauley

Big Thing #1: Keep It Legal

Conflicting Images

Ask someone the first thing that comes to mind when considering biohacking and accidents, and you’ll get impressions that fall into roughly two groups. One group, from the uninitiated public, might sound like a summer movie thriller all about killer viruses cut and pasted together in dank basement laboratories escaping into the wild. The other group, coming from DIYbio practitioners, is more prosaic and is concerned with handling broken glassware, containing spills, and best practices for cleaning up biohazards. These conflicting images—and the different perceptions of biohacking at the root—are worth a detailed look themselves. Happily, both sets of concerns can be addressed, at least on a basic level, with good laboratory safety practices. Having a safe home lab involves many practical elements—lab location, personal protection, anticipating problems, common safety equipment, and best lab practices—but we’ll start with one of the least practical but most asked about pieces: what is legal? We’ll tackle some of these other issues in future editions of BioCoder.

Kinds of Labs

Home labs are different from community labs, such as BioCurious and Genspace, and other public maker spaces where several people come together to share access to tools and ideas. And there are even other differences with commercial and academic labs. These differences mostly work in the favor of the ...

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