Clean and sterile laboratory equipment is now paramount in protecting students and staff. At Westlab we’ve created some lab sanitisation guidelines, taking learnings from Australian lab technicians (Thank you for your input) to minimise the spread of COVID-19, protect health and wellbeing, and keep your practicals on track.
The purpose of this document is to help collate information about COVID 19 spread prevention and make recommendations for best practice in teaching laboratories. Whilst the focus is specifically on teaching laboratories, nonetheless, most elements in this document are also relevant to research laboratories, which are addressed in the appendix.
We note that, while this document is focussed on SARS-Cov2 and Covid19 infection prevention, many elements of best-practice during an epidemic or pandemic situation are also good general practice. The same sanitisation practices that reduce Covid-19 will also greatly reduce flu, the common cold, and other illnesses in students and staff.
Personal protective equipment, such as goggles, eyeglasses, visors, and shields, should be used as required to maintain safety in the science laboratory. However, such equipment should be disinfected between uses.
Sterilise Lab Glasses
- Prepare a tub or sink with an amount of Bio-Degradable, Residue-free detergent. Eco-Friendly Detergent
- Each Student is to wash their safety glasses after use in the detergent then hang on a drying rack.
- Depending on the makeup of glasses, if there are any metal components, you may want to run a quick hair dryer over them to avoid rust.
- Before next use student wipes over with an Alcohol wipe.
- Prepare a tub or sink with an amount of diluted Ethanol. Surface Disinfectant
- Each Student is to wash their safety glasses after use in the Ethanol then hang on a drying rack.
- UV Sterilising Cabinet – This is an exceptionally easy and hassle-free method – simply load the cabinet and switch on, the UV light will do the rest!
Cloth lab coats provide good protection in the lab, but need to be washed between users to avoid the risk of student-to-student disease transfer. This presents challenges, given limited supplies, the cost of lab coats, and time required for washing. Lab coats should not be re-used by different students without first being cleaned. If stored after use, lab coats should not be hung on top of another laboratory coat (e.g. Pegs), or in lockers or hooks with personal items. A simple plastic divider system is an effective way of separating lab coats when in storage.
- Use disposable Aprons along with Sleeve Protectors Sleeve Covers This is an easy, low-cost option, but care needs to be taken in the presence of flames and hazardous chemicals.
- If using Cloth Lab coats, they must be washed and hung without contact with another coat –Labcoat Rack. Note: Not all practicals require a lab coat if there are no hazards to staff or students.
- Fogger Machine with registered COVID 19 TGA Approved solution to be run over separated coats is an effective solution.
Wash Glassware Between Practicals
- All Glassware must be cleaned with disinfectant before and after each use. COVID-19 best practice states: if shared glassware cannot be cleaned between uses, then it should not be used.
- Normal wash up with fully Bio-Degradable residue-free detergent. Eco-Friendly Detergent – Challenges include that you may not have enough glassware to rotate between lessons. To speed up the process drying ovens may be required. Contact Westlab for information if required.
Wash down of Microscopes, pH meters & other shared equipment
All tools and equipment used should be cleaned with disinfectant wipes before and after each use. If shared equipment cannot be cleaned and sanitised between uses, then it should not be used.
- This will have to be done via Alcohol Wipes after every use.
- On Microscopes make sure your brand of wipes does not leave clouding of the lenses and objectives.
- UV Sterilising Cabinet Note: can lead to degradation of certain materials so avoid expensive equipment.
Other Procedures to Consider
Teachers can also sequence activities in the science laboratory to minimise student interactions and allow for social distancing. For example, teachers may direct that only small groups of students be allowed to collect and return equipment from storage areas at any one time.
An effective method of storage includes the Gratnells storage system which consists of individual trays in trolley and frames. In this way, equipment for the practicals can be clearly organized and quarantined pending sanitisation.
Handwashing both on entry and exit
After lab coat removal this should be mandatory and repeated at regular intervals. Soap and water followed by drying are considered highly effective at removing SARS-Cov2 from hands. Hand hygiene should also be performed before putting on PPE and after removing it, when changing gloves, after contact with any respiratory secretions, before eating, and after using the toilet.
We recommend you always use a quality, Australian made hand wash or hand sanitiser that is effective at preventing bacterial and viral infection. Various dispensers, including touch free refillable wall units are a good option and can be used with bulk supplies of soap or sanitiser. Alternatively, smaller per packed pump dispenser bottles can be mounted to walls or stands and replaced as required.
Conduct frequent surface decontamination
Frequent surface decontamination is effective at removing SARS-cov2 from PPE,
Equipment and other surfaces. Furthermore, it can be done at relatively low cost. It is both the responsibility of the Teaching Institution to provide a safe work environment, and of the students to ensure their own safety and the safety of others. Hence, given the low cost and joint responsibility we suggest double cleaning with an “in and out” policy:
- before lab use (by staff),
- when students arrive at workstation (by student),
- when students leave workstation (by student),
- after students leave the laboratory (by staff).
Surface sanitisers are usually available in either ready to use concentrations or concentrates. Common active ingredients include, Alcohol based sanitisers and non-alcohol (usually QUAT based) sanitisers.
Always check with the supplier that it is an effective solution for managing infection control, especially on high touch point surfaces. A variety of applicators are available including Foggers and Sprayer systems.
The safety of Students, Teachers and Laboratory technicians is paramount and should be foremost in all decisions made about the conduct of practicals in science lessons. The resumption of practical activities in schools should be decided in consultation with teachers, headteachers and senior executives.
Where possible, decisions should always be made in favour of students receiving a positive educational experience in science.