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Laboratory at the Institute for Biochemistry at the University of Cologne, 2004
Reconstruction of an 18th century chemistry laboratory in the style of Lavoisier's contemporaries, Natural History Museum Vienna

The laboratory or laboratory (mostly laboratories or laboratories , or laboratories , from the Latin laborare = "work", "suffer", "struggle") designates a workplace primarily in the field of natural sciences . In the laboratory, several are experiments , process control , quality control , testing and measurements (especially calibrations ) performed and / or chemical materials are processed and manufactured chemical products (example chemistry lab ).


Laboratories can be found in chemistry , physics , biology , pharmacy , medicine , engineering , photo technology , IT security, experimental psychology and economics . A well-known example outside of the classical natural sciences is the “ sleep laboratory ”. Laboratories can not only be set up as stationary, but also for mobile use in vehicles or for temporary use in containers (laboratory containers). The same requirements apply to their equipment as to stationary laboratories.

Laboratories (company laboratories) are also widespread in industrial companies, where B. the quality inspection of incoming materials, as well as the review of the properties of manufactured products and also the product development.

In a figurative sense, the term is also used in the artistic field, for example in dance or music one speaks of a laboratory , lab or laboratory when research is carried out in free form in border areas of the genre .


The laboratory equipment depends heavily on the type of facility and takes into account the special requirements in terms of safety, cleanliness, and the availability of materials, tools and devices.

Justus von Liebig's laboratory in Giessen, 1840s
Practical laboratory for organic chemistry at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences , Jülich campus

In chemical and biochemical laboratories, many different glass devices ( round bottom flasks , distillation bridges , condensers, beakers, etc.) are required with which analyzes and syntheses are carried out. In addition, when working with chemicals, the standard procedure is to work inside fume cupboards, in which chemicals released during open handling (e.g. when weighing / dosing), gases or aerosols that are produced are sucked out of the air during the reaction, and which the workers can use in the event of an accident Protect from splinters or splashing liquids. The latter applies in particular when working with evacuated equipment ( desiccators , vacuum distillation ). In microbiological laboratories, safety workbenches are also used, which are kept sterile by suitable pumps and filter systems in order to protect the worker and his experiments from the influence of microorganisms .

Due to the handling of harmful and flammable substances or the risk of contamination from biological agents, it is not allowed to eat, drink or smoke in chemical laboratories; in addition, it is usually necessary to wear suitable protective clothing ( laboratory coat , suitable other clothing, protective goggles , protective gloves , sturdy shoes ) mandatory. Flammable or otherwise dangerous substances are kept in safety cabinets.

Laboratories in physics usually have connections for three-phase current , compressed air and cooling water lines that are separate from the normal drinking water network . The equipment also includes various mostly electronic measuring devices , often also vacuum apparatus and, depending on the special field of work, other devices. An important type of laboratory, especially in solid-state physics, is the clean room , in which a particularly clean, especially dust-free work environment prevails due to a special ventilation system, the wearing of protective clothing and the avoidance of certain activities.

In the engineering sciences, a laboratory is not only referred to as appropriately equipped and used rooms, but also a class of courses at universities and technical colleges in which practical skills and the use of certain devices, software , etc. should be trained on the basis of exemplary tasks.

So-called pocket labs ( lab-on-a-chip system ) have recently been used more and more.

Protection level concept

For laboratories that work with hazardous substances , with biological agents or with genetically modified organisms , different legal provisions in Germany require classification into four protection levels ( Hazardous Substances Ordinance ) or biological protection levels ( Biological Agents Ordinance ) or biological safety levels ( Genetic Engineering Act and Genetic Engineering Safety Ordinance ) ) stipulates which structural, technical, organizational and measures with regard to personal protective equipment entails. Similar regulations apply in Austria and Switzerland.

Protection levels according to the Hazardous Substances Ordinance (Germany)

According to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances , the hazardous substances used in the laboratory must be checked for risk. In addition to the classification with the hazard characteristics (i.e. toxic, highly flammable, etc.), the frequency of use, the quantities used and various physical properties, such as the concentration in the air, the distribution, etc., and the working conditions must be taken into account.

Based on this data, the classification is then made:

Protection level Hazardous substances with the properties activities
1 irritant, harmful, corrosive (small quantities and short exposure time)
  • Minimizing the dangers through suitable structural (e.g. fume cupboard) and organizational (e.g. special workplace hygiene) measures
  • label all substances
  • no food containers for hazardous substances may be used
  • safe storage of hazardous substances
2 irritant, harmful, corrosive
  • Level 1 measures
  • Check replacement of hazardous substances
  • Prohibit eating, drinking and smoking
  • Separate work and private clothing
  • Allow working alone with suitable protective measures
3 toxic, very toxic and mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic hazardous substances if the occupational exposure limit is not exceeded
  • Step 2 measures
  • Use closed systems if possible
  • Restrict access to laboratory workers
  • Keep hazardous substances locked up
4th mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic hazardous substances if the occupational exposure limit is exceeded
  • Level 3 measures
  • Clearly mark the work area
  • Take measures to detect the release of substances

Protection levels according to the Biological Agents Ordinance (Germany)

The symbol for biohazard according to Appendix I of the BioStoffV identifies laboratories with protection levels 2 to 4.

The Biological Agents Ordinance (BioStoffV) regulates the handling of biological agents to protect employees (including in the laboratory) . The biological agents - they are also referred to as biological agents - include u. a. Prokaryotes ( bacteria and archaea ), viruses , fungi , parasites and cell cultures . Paragraph 3 of the BioStoffV defines four risk groups for them . The classification is based on the risk of infection . In simple terms, this means that the more dangerous a biological substance is, the higher the risk group. For so-called targeted activities (see definitions of terms - § 2 BioStoffV ), work with a biological agent of risk group 1 must be carried out according to the rules of protection level 1, the same principle applies to protection levels 2 to 4. The regulations are referred to as levels, since the regulations of the lower protection levels also apply to the higher levels. For work in the laboratory, the rules of the protection levels according to the Biological Agents Ordinance largely correspond to those of the safety levels according to the Genetic Engineering Act.

In protection level 1, the general hygiene measures , and when working in the laboratory, the special hygiene measures must also be observed. They are detailed in the Technical Rules for Biological Agents (TRBA). This means, for example, that the employees in the laboratory wear a lab coat as protective clothing and wash and disinfect their hands after finishing their work . With the higher protection levels, the requirements for equipment and organization in the laboratory increase, and the laboratory must also be marked with the biohazard symbol. So it is e.g. B. In protection level 2 it is common to work on a safety workbench if bioaerosols can arise during the work and to use an autoclave to sterilize the waste that may contain biological substances. In protection level 3 is u. a. an access control to the laboratory and an emergency power supply are prescribed, the exhaust air must be filtered . The personal protective equipment of employees must also be adapted to the possible dangers, for example by wearing a respirator . In protection level 4 it is z. B. required that the laboratory is structurally separated and can be sealed for a possible fumigation . It can only be entered via a lock , the employees wear fully ventilated protective suits .

Safety levels according to the genetic engineering law (Germany)

Marking of a genetic engineering work area of ​​safety level 2, the symbol for biohazard is also required.

Genetic engineering work with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is carried out under four biological safety levels . These are specified in Germany by the Genetic Engineering Act (GenTG) and detailed in the Genetic Engineering Safety Ordinance (GenTSV). The assignment of the genetic engineering work to the four safety levels is based, among other things, on the risk of the GMOs used. In laboratory jargon , such laboratories are referred to as S1 laboratories to S4 laboratories. The exact regulation is specified by §§ 4–7 GenTSV. In addition to the safety levels for laboratories, there are corresponding regulations u. a. for the production area. The regulations are referred to as levels because the regulations of the lower security level also apply to the higher levels. For work in the laboratory, the rules of the safety levels according to the Genetic Engineering Act partly correspond to those of the protection levels according to the Biological Agents Ordinance, but there are also further safety measures.

This includes labeling as a genetic engineering work area and the appointment of a project manager . The technical equipment, depending on the security level z. B. with safety workbench, autoclave or access via a lock corresponds to the laboratory in which biological agents are used. Differences arise in the details, from which security level on which measures are to be observed. A facility in which genetic engineering work of security level 3 or 4 is to be carried out must be approved in accordance with §§ 8 and 10 GenTG. In Germany there are four genetic engineering facilities of security level 4 (as of December 2012). One of the four plants is in operation, one plant has been approved for operation, and the construction of two plants has been approved.

See also


Legal sources

Web links

Wiktionary: Labor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Laboratory  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Fraunhofer IBMT, together with THIEMT, will present mobile laboratory technologies at ArabLab 2015. ( Memento of the original from December 23, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Press release from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technology, March 20, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. See also: Laboratory ventilation .
  4. Approval of genetic engineering work and facilities. Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), accessed on May 20, 2014 .