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All microscope users MUST receive introductory training on any equipment (microscopes, incubation equipment, etc) before using it. There have been incidences of equipment (both core facility and individual laboratory's) being damaged by unauthorized users. Introductory training on a microscope will consist of an initial session covering the overall operation of the machine to be followed by a further session with the user's own specimen. Please see the LMCB Light Microscopy Training Policy for more information.

You must read the general rules for safety and correct use of the microscopes on this webpage before you are given access to book the microscopes. You must also read the documents in the list below:

You may also need to read additional risk assessments and rules for particular microscopes and procedures. If you want to carry out a procedure that is not covered by an existing risk assessment (e.g. one involving higher risks) then you must discuss this with the light microscopy facility manager well in advance and prepare a separate risk assessment for that work.

Please note that the LMCB Code of Practice for Laboratory Workers and the LMCB Health and Safety Policy apply to all labs, including microscope rooms.

General safety rules

In addition to those in the LMCB Code of Practice the following rules apply to microscope rooms:

  • Eating and drinking is not allowed in microscope rooms
  • Lab coats and gloves must be worn when working with viable biological material in the microscope rooms
  • Slides, coverslips, tips and other sharps must be taken away or disposed of in the sharps bins provided. Do not leave specimens behind on benches or other surfaces. Specimens left behind in the microscope room will be disposed of.
  • Gloves, tissues and other clinical waste must be disposed of in the yellow bins. DO NOT use the yellow bins for viable biological waste, liquids, food waste, slides and other sharps.
  • All biological waste (e.g. viable cells in dishes or plates) must be taken out of the microscope rooms, decontaminated and disposed of as biological waste in autoclave bags or sharps bins.
  • Any spills of biological material must be cleaned up and decontaminated immediately. Aqueous medium must be mopped up with towels and decontaminated using 70% IMS.
  • Spills of aqueous medium directly onto microscope optics or components must be reported to the light microscopy facility immediately. Do not attempt to clean microscope optics yourself unless you have been trained to do so.
  • Any coverslips and slides broken on the microscope must be removed and disposed of in the sharps bin. All small pieces of glass must be removed during the clean-up so there is no risk of injury to other users.

Mercury lamp safety rules

Some of the older microscopes in the LMCB have mercury vapour lamps. These will often be attached directly to the back of microscopes (i.e. they will not have liquid light guides). They are sometimes labelled HBO50 or HBO100. These mercury vapour lamps have a warm-up and cool-down time to prevent damage to the bulb.

  • You must wait for 20 minutes after turning a mercury lamp on before turning it off
  • You must wait for 20 minutes after turning a mercury lamp off before turning it back on again

Mercury vapour bulbs have been known to explode. This can be caused if grease (e.g. from fingers) has contaminated the quartz glass of the bulb and weakened it over time. If any mercury vapour bulb explodes you must follow the procedure below.

  • Vacate the room immediately. There will be mercury vapour in the air and mercury is toxic
  • Close the door and lock it if possible. Otherwise find some way to warn others not to enter
  • Contact or send someone else to contact a member of the light microscopy facility. They will arrange for UCL Hazardous Waste Service to come in and decontaminate the room after the mercury has cooled down and condensed onto surfaces. Contact details for the light microscopy facility are at the end of this document.

Microscope usage – booking

You must book microscopes for all the time you want to use them. The booking rules vary between microscopes. More details about booking microscopes can be found in the LMCB Light Microscopy Booking Policy.

Keeping the microscopes clean

Dirt and excess oil on microscope optics causes optical aberrations that seriously reduce the quality of images. Oil transferred to the microscope focus knob, computer keyboards and mice and other surfaces is unpleasant, can be a hazard and can cause imaging problems (e.g. dried up oil can stop specimens from fitting into stage adapters correctly). It is therefore very important that the microscopes are kept clean for their correct operation and to achieve the highest quality imaging.

  • Always keep immersion oil bottles in the trays provided. Never put lens tissue or anything else in the trays as it will become contaminated with oil
  • Always fully screw the top back onto the immersion oil to prevent big spills if the bottle is knocked over
  • Always wear gloves when dispensing immersion oil and remove the gloves as soon as you have applied the oil. This is to stop oil being transferred to keyboards, mice, microscope focus knobs, etc.
  • Do not use too much oil. One or two drops from the end of the dropper is almost always sufficient. Excess oil will run down objective lenses or onto the sub-stage condenser and will get inside both the lens and the nosepiece, ruining images.
  • Wipe all the lenses you've used after imaging. Use lens tissue to remove oil with a single wipe in one direction. Do not rub back and forth with the tissue as this can scratch the lens. Do not re-use the same tissue but wipe again with another tissue. This stops oil and dirt being transferred. Always wipe up any oil that has run down around the edge of the objective lens to stop oil from getting into the nosepiece.
  • Wipe oil and spilled medium from specimen adapters and clean any remaing oil off them with 70% IMS
  • Clean up spilled oil immediately by wiping up the excess with absorbent tissue and wiping non-optical components with 70% IMS

Any other items left in the microscope rooms (e.g. aspirator bottles, pens, notebooks, pipettes, tip boxes) will be removed. Anything that should not be in microscope rooms (e.g. coffee mugs) will be removed and will be returned if you see the light microscopy manager.


If a user does not comply with the safety rules (e.g. eats or drinks in the microscope rooms) or with the booking rules (e.g. does not turn up for a microscope session without giving notice); or if a user has left a microscope in an unclean state the following penalties will be applied:

  • Initially a warning
  • Followed by access removed from the microscope for ONE WEEK
  • In further cases access removed for TWO or MORE WEEKS

If the problem does not reoccur for 6 months it will be removed from the record.


  • Contact email for arranging training, reporting problems or requesting help with image acquisition or processing: lmcb-lm-help@ucl.ac.uk
  • Departmental Safety Officer's email to report any accidents or incidents: p.topham@ucl.ac.uk
  • Members-only mailing list for communicating with other microscope users and sharing information about protocols and procedures: lmcb-lm-users@ucl.ac.uk

Staff Member




Andrew Vaughan




John Gallagher

Light Microscopy Officer



Ki HngLight Microscopy Officer3.0437916

Paul Topham

Departmental Safety Officer



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