Omokhodion in his study in 1998 stated view of laboratory workers regarding their safety and health will help in complying with basic laboratory safety procedures. In 20028, he also stated that medical laboratory students do not fully comply with safety rules despite knowing the benefits of doing so. Postgraduate students in life and natural sciences spend most of their time in the laboratory conducting various experimental works. In the process of carrying out these researches some are exposed to dangers such as poisonous chemicals, pathogenic organism, acids and the likes. It is therefore imperative that safety procedures be well formulated and mandated for the students so as to safe guide them from any possible but avoidable danger while working in the laboratory. Research on workers safety have been conducted among medical practitioners by various researchers globally among which are Izegbu et al.,2; Ogunbodede6; Omokhodion7; Odusanya5; Bamigboye et al.,1; Mehrdad et al.,3 and Suchitra, et al10. However, to the best knowledge of the researcher, such has not been conducted among postgraduate students in Malaysia till date. This study therefore aimed at investigating knowledge, awareness and compliance of postgraduate students to laboratory safety practices.

Research questions

  • Are there any laboratory safety procedures?
  • Do postgraduate students aware of the safety practices?
  • Any compliance to these procedures among research students?
  • This study therefore aimed at investigating knowledge, awareness and compliance of postgraduate students to laboratory safety practices.

Materials and Methods

In other to carry out this research, a three sections questionnaire focusing on the research questions was developed in 2010 and administered to volunteer postgraduate students from the School of Biosciences and Biotechnology. Section A consist of 11 socio-demographic and academic information of the respondents among which are age, gender, marital status, academic level, program of study, type of studentship and year of study. Section B consist of 14 item likert-scale questions on knowledge and awareness of basic laboratory safety procedures while section C consists of 12 item likert – scale questions on compliance with safety practices in the laboratory. Thirteen volunteer students from six different laboratories took part in this study. Retrieved questionnaire were statistically analyzed. In addition to the questionnaire, an unexpected visit to the laboratories of some of the respondent was made to ascertain their answers by observing them while working.

Results and Discussion

Socio-demographic and academic information

An analysis of socio demographic and academic information shows that 69.2% of respondent were female while 30.8% were male. 5 students are foreigners and the remaining 8 are Malaysians. In Malaysia, postgraduate training involves studying in research mode, coursework mode and combination of coursework and dissertation. Hence, 61.5 % enrolled for Master degree and 38.5 % are undergoing doctoral studies. 12(92.3%) respondents are undergoing pure research mode of study both at master and doctoral levels respectively. They are always in the lab from Monday to Friday. 84.6% of the respondents spend averagely five hours per day in the laboratory.

Knowledge, awareness and compliance with basic laboratory safety procedures

Pathogens are disease causing microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Thos working with pathogens among the respondents are 5(38.5%). 7 student researchers sometimes work with these organisms. It imperative that biosafety cabinets be utilized while working with pathogens accordingly. Usage of lab coat is one of the basic protective wears in the laboratory. It is protective clothing usually wore to help protect from either chemical or biochemical hazards when working in the laboratory. Five out 13 of the respondents often wear lab coat. 6 (46.2%) wear it whenever they feel like doing so. However, one respondent never puts on lab coat possibly due to the nature of his research work. Workbench disinfection is another important safety measure in the laboratory. This is required to avoid contamination of the work and worker. It is meant to be carried out before and after working in the laboratory using bacteriostatic and bacteriocidal agents like dettol. Decontamination and disinfection will help avoid cross contamination from spores forming bacteria and fungi. Eight of the respondents often disinfect workbench surfaces before the day’s work while 9 often do so after working in the laboratory. Among disposables and valuable protective wears in life and natural sciences are hand gloves. It helps in hand protection against physical, chemical and biological hazards. Microorganisms are found everywhere including where higher forms of life cannot survive4. Oniya et al.,9 reported possible transfer and spread of bacteria and fungi via handshake which can in turn get to the mouth. It is not worthy that respondents always wash their hands after working in the laboratory. This explains reason why students do not fall ill as result of laboratory acquired infections. Eight out of the respondents have attended safety seminar one time or the other during their study. In conclusion, laboratory safety measures are important in every research and demonstration laboratories. Inculcating these measures into postgraduate students during their research training will help safe guide from avoidable hazards that can occur. Compliance to these procedures should be made mandatory lastly, further research on knowledge, awareness and compliance to laboratory safety procedures should be conducted throughout the faculty and other universities are encouraged to do so as present study serves as a pioneer.

Table 1: Section A: – Socio-demographic and academic information of the respondents.

Table 2: Section B: – Knowledge and awareness of basic laboratory safety procedures.

Table 3: Section C: – Compliance with safety practices in the laboratory.