Biomakespace Forum

Biomakespace Safety Policies - more eyes required!


(Jenny Molloy) #1

Hi All

We have been asked to submit a bunch of policies to the University in advance of a tenancy agreement being drawn up. If you have any expertise in these areas please take a look and even if you don’t, some sense checking would be most appreciated!

Health and Safety (General)
[Electrical Safety Policy] (https://docs.google.com/document/d/19__0k6ek3NFDBYLWCYnddOdK_y6vdK1zO3qGd4HsLoY/edit#heading=h.bpftown54lv2) (thanks Justin!)
Fire Safety Policy (thanks @peichua!)
Laser Safety Policy (we don’t have many lasers, so this is brief)
First Aid Policy (kudos to Lara)
Soldering Safety

Still to be drafted:

  • Biosafety
  • Chemical safety
  • Waste disposal
  • Guests
  • Events
  • Member rules (to reference the policies)
  • Code of conduct

If you’d like to help out, head over to Trello and join the tasks board!


((Alexander) James Phillips) #2

In terms of a concise list for members it would be good to summarise the main points (rules) in something like this perhaps: https://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk/view/Rules#Safety ? Which includes safety, etiquette, and code of conduct etc


(Dean Madden) #3

The Cambridge rules, such as they are at the moment, look pretty good. I agree that a brief summary might be helpfuI, but the London Hackspace rules are flippant to the point of being almost entirely useless. What is the public liability insurance policy for Biomakespace? Do members who wish to undertake particular tasks (e.g., working with GMOs) have to undergo any sort of induction training before they are allowed to do so?


((Alexander) James Phillips) #4

Hi Dean, I agree that the LHS (London HackSpace) rules seem flippant, certainly rule 0 “Don’t be on fire” is 50% joke, 50% deadly serious. It would be good to discuss this in person as I find it very hard to deliver the intended tone over text. As I’m not sure when we’ll be able to meet in person apologies if I seem rude or confrontational, that’s not my intended stance. I want the BMS (Biomakespace) to be a safe, productive and fun place to be.

The LHS rules do seem flippant. In practice their generality leads to people debating more and also thinking for themselves more. An example of this is Mark Steward’s comment (on 6th May 2016), which I don’t think will ever be needed in the BMS, but it’s incredibly powerful to say: “look at rule 1, you violated it multiple times, you also didn’t want to accept others trying to help you not violate it, therefore you’ve lost your privilege to use that equipment / the space”: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/london-hack-space/uMgD-okpNYc/BJAW1_rQBQAJ What do you think? I know that if they had caused them selves or someone else a serious injury or damaged the machine, rule 1 is “almost entirely useless” and that a specific rule such as: “when using the lathe always tie back long hair and don’t wear a tie” would presumably be very useful from a liability point of view?

Again I don’t think the BMS community will ever need to have this conversation. It’s an overabundance of caution that’s making me suggest a streamlined summary of the rules so that they become more powerful and also as a catch all (again it would be interesting to know if that would practically assist in reducing the board’s liability).

The Cambridge rules are very good but I’m concerned they’re too verbose and we know that the longer rules are, the more people then won’t read them all or if they do read them all, then be able to retain all the relevant information. For example, the very comprehensive fire safety policy could be “summarised for members” with parts 5, 6 and 8 (which condenses 4 pages of longer sentences and paragraphs down to about half a page of bullet points). The preceding 3 pages repeat these points or are concerned with how the voluntary safety office interacts with the board and setting down the legal responsibility for the board. Points which are either slightly or wholly relevant only for the officer and or board and not the membership.

Having now thought about what you’ve said I should restate my original idea as:
Have a summary of rules including one which says: “the full safety policies linked to under each section supersede this list of rules. These rules are for the convenience of the community.” And perhaps under fire safety we could for example link to the fire policy saying “see sections 5, 6 and 8” ?

Full disclosure, I have a strong aversion to an unnecessary rules and definitely hard to understand or ambiguous rules. However the Cambridge rules that have been drafted (by the hard work of others) are darn good. Once we hear about the ‘public liability insurance policy for Biomakespace’ I suspect at the core of the debate will be a discussion around the statement that ‘some mistakes and accidents are theoretically avoidable but practically unavoidable’. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this (preferably in person :slight_smile: ) as I suspect in our current ‘not my fault’ national litigious environment that would unfortunately be an unacceptable approach.

Apologies for lack of brevity.


(Dean Madden) #5

Sorry. I’m an interfering old sod. I’m just aware of another similar place in the North where I saw people trying to flame plastic disposable loops with disposable cigarette lighters which undertaking bacterial transformations.

You need rules to stop people injuring themselves, others, or the environment, damaging equipment, breaking the law, invalidating insurance etc. Any rules need to be straightforward so that people don’t have any trouble understanding or following them. Because, however, rules have to cover many different situations, they always tend to be verbose. My inclination would be to have a fully worked-up set of rules, then to issue people (members) with shorter general guidance, suggesting that they seek additional guidance when necessary.

The emphasis should be to help people to do things, rather than preventing them. So not a list of things that are verboten, but ‘I want to do X, what do I have to do/who do I have to go to for advice?’. If it was me, I’d issue all members with an A5 safety booklet when they joined, plus a lab coat and pair of safety specs :wink: It would be good to find some talented person who could draw some cartoons for the safety booklet.


((Alexander) James Phillips) #6

If that’s what you call “being an interfering old sod” then more the merrier! You keep going :slight_smile:

The emphasis should be to help people to do things, rather than preventing them. So not a list of things that are verboten, but ‘I want to do X, what do I have to do/who do I have to go to for advice?’.

Completely agree :slight_smile:

I had typed A LOT more below but cut down, edited, reedited many many times as it’s hard to discuss such a nuanced subject online: I’d still prefer to continue it offline whenever there’s a chance :slight_smile:


My fundamental question is:

  1. what guidelines should we use to decide what rules should be written down? Valuable rules buried in many other rules are not as valuable any more. – my motivation is that I’d like to contribute to the ‘Biosafety’ doc but wondering where we want to pitch it. Personally I’d only include details about how to be legal (no GM outside the lab, no CL2, etc…), the protocol for doing an experiment (submitting to spaces’ Biological Safety Officer & Biosafety board), how minimise chance of hurting others / yourself, maybe how to minimise chance of breaking equipment, and I definitely would not include how to increase chances of making your experiment be successful. That’s for a different doc, not the safety doc.

Other points:

  • the people with the burning hoops should probably be:
    • permanently banned from the space
    • suspended for 3 / 1 months w/wo retraining
    • not allowed to work outside of teams containing known “sensible” people
      …depending on the specifics of their motivation, response to the people challenging them, outcome, previous history. Writing a rule book to that level of permutation and lack of thought would result in a massive manual that would be impossible to consume. There’d also be enormous duplication and waste when an update was attempted to be applied.
  • by writing down too many rules my fear is also that people switch more of their creative brain off, so when the rules don’t cover their particular scenario permutation (assuming they’re able to remember all other written rules at the relevant times) then they’re potentially more likely to hurt themselves (speaking from personal experience :wink: )
  • if the detailed rules (restrictive) route is taken the consequences of someone breaching different rules should perhaps be written along with them if it’s serious enough to warrant banning / suspension / retraining
  • we may want to implement and tolerate some extra measures given the potential public perception around community bio labs
  • there are also some things we can do to minimise all downsides, such as fast turn arounds on reviewing new protocols and submissions for experiments / reagents / equipment.
  • if this is not the kind of conversation wanted or anyone doesn’t think it’s valuable then I’m fine being quiet :slight_smile:

Agreed questions we still need to find an answer to:

  • check we are legally able to accept that accidents will happen and that people will learn from them. Because the laws of diminishing returns means we are accepting some risk in the lab, no matter what we do. – edit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm#q7 states:

‘reasonably practicable’ means: balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

So I guess it’s then in the legal definition of ‘grossly disproportionate’.