Perform biological procedures

This unit of competency covers the ability to interpret work requirements, prepare samples, conduct pre-use and calibration checks on equipment and perform routine biological procedures, including sample preparation. These procedures may involve several steps and are used to classify cell types, species and biologically active compounds by analysing their biological and chemical characteristics. This unit includes data processing, interpretation of results and troubleshooting obvious departures from standard procedures.


This unit of competency is applicable to technical assistants working in the biomedical, environmental, biotechnology and education industry sectors.

Industry representatives have provided case studies to illustrate the practical application of this unit of competency and to show its relevance in a workplace setting. These are found at the end of this unit of competency under the section 'This competency in practice'.

Elements and Performance Criteria



1. Interpret and schedule work requirements

1.1. Review work request to identify samples, required procedures and materials/equipment/instruments involved

1.2. Identify hazards and enterprise control measures associated with the sample, preparation methods, reagents and/or equipment

1.3. Plan parallel work sequences to optimise throughput of multiple sets of samples, if appropriate

2. Receive and prepare biological samples

2.1. Log samples using standard operating procedures (SOPs)

2.2. Record sample description, compare with specification and note and report discrepancies

2.3. Prepare samples in accordance with testing requirements

2.4. Ensure traceability of sample from receipt to reporting of results

3. Perform techniques that assist in the classification of a cell or species

3.1. Select suitable techniques in accordance with enterprise requirements and methods

3.2. Set up and use equipment and reagents in accordance with the method

3.3. Perform techniques in accordance with the method

4. Perform techniques that analyse biological activity

4.1. Select suitable techniques in accordance with enterprise requirements and methods

4.2. Set up and use equipment and reagents in accordance with the method

4.3. Perform techniques in accordance with the method

5. Process and interpret data

5.1. Record test data noting atypical observations

5.2. Construct calibration graphs, if appropriate, and compute results for all samples from these graphs

5.3. Ensure calculated values are consistent with expectations

5.4. Record and report results in accordance with enterprise procedures

5.5. Estimate and document uncertainty of measurement in accordance with enterprise procedures, if required

5.6. Interpret trends in data and/or results and report out of specification or atypical results promptly to appropriate personnel

5.7. Determine if obvious procedure or equipment problems have led to atypical data or results

6. Maintain a safe work environment

6.1. Use established safe work practices and personal protective equipment to ensure personal safety and that of other laboratory personnel

6.2. Minimise the generation of wastes

6.3. Ensure the safe disposal of biohazardous wastes

6.4. Clean, care for and store equipment and reagents as required

7. Maintain laboratory records

7.1. Record approved data into enterprise system

7.2. Maintain confidentiality and security of enterprise information and laboratory data

7.3. Maintain equipment and calibration logs in accordance with enterprise procedures

Required Skills

Required skills

Required skills include:

using instruments for qualitative and/or quantitative analysis

sample preparation and separation techniques

performing calibration checks

metrology techniques underpinning test/procedure including estimating uncertainty

maintaining and evaluating reagents

troubleshooting basic equipment/method

preparingand using calibration graphs and calculating results using appropriate units and precision

applying theoretical knowledge to interpret gross features of data and make relevant conclusions such as identifying atypical results as out of normal range or an artefact

tracing and sourcing obvious causes of an artefact

recording and communicating results in accordance with enterprise procedures

maintaining security, integrity, traceability of samples, sub-samples, test data, results and documentation

Required knowledge

Required knowledge includes:

hazards and risks in biological laboratories

principles and concepts related to equipment/instrument operation and testing

function of key components of the equipment/instrument and/or reagents

effects of modifying equipment/instrument variables

basic equipment/method troubleshooting procedures

calculation steps to give results in appropriate units and precision

sources of uncertainty in measurement and methods for control

importance and appropriate use of controls and certified reference materials

enterprise and/or legal requirements for traceability

relevant health, safety and environmental requirements

Evidence Required

The Evidence Guide provides advice on assessment and must be read in conjunction with the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge, range statement and the Assessment Guidelines for the Training Package.

Overview of assessment

Critical aspects for assessment and evidence required to demonstrate competency in this unit

Assessors should ensure that candidates can:

interpret test procedures accurately

prepare and test samples using procedures appropriate to the nature of sample

perform calibration checks (if required)

safely operate test equipment to enterprise standards and/or manufacturer's specification

prepare calibration graphs and calculate results in appropriate units and precision

apply basic theoretical knowledge to interpret gross features of data and make relevant conclusions

identify atypical results as out of normal range or an artefact using reference material or quality control sera

trace and source obvious causes of an artefact

communicate problems to a supervisor or outside service technician

record and communicate results according to enterprise procedures

maintain security, integrity, traceability and identity of samples, sub-samples and documentation

follow OHS procedures and principles of GLP.

Context of and specific resources for assessment

This unit of competency is to be assessed in the workplace or simulated workplace environment.

This unit of competency may be assessed with:

MSL924001A Process and interpret data

MSL974003A Perform chemical tests and procedures.

Resources may include:

standard laboratory equipped with appropriate test equipment and instruments, reagents and materials

SOPs and testing methods.

Method of assessment

The following assessment methods are suggested:

review of results obtained by the candidate over a period of time to ensure accuracy, consistency and timeliness

review of testing records and workplace documentation completed by the candidate

observation of candidate conducting a range of biological procedures

feedback from peers and supervisors

oral or written questioning of biological concepts, principles and enterprise procedures.

In all cases, practical assessment should be supported by questions to assess underpinning knowledge and those aspects of competency which are difficult to assess directly.

Where applicable, reasonable adjustment must be made to work environments and training situations to accommodate ethnicity, age, gender, demographics and disability.

Access must be provided to appropriate learning and/or assessment support when required.

The language, literacy and numeracy demands of assessment should not be greater than those required to undertake the unit of competency in a work like environment.

This competency in practice

Industry representatives have provided the case studies below to illustrate the practical application of this unit of competency and to show its relevance in a workplace setting.

Biomedical (1)

A laboratory technician conducts a screening test for parasites in stool samples. She/he checks the sample identification details, cross-checks the sample barcode with the request slip and the data entry in the laboratory information management system (LIMS). The technician locates the test method and then examines the sample container to ensure that it has not leaked and that there is sufficient volume for the test. She/he prepares the sample by adding solvent to a portion and shaking it before placing it in a centrifuge. After satisfactory separation, she/he pipettes a small quantity of the top layer of solvent onto a glass slide and adds iodine as a stain. The technician carefully views the slide using x40 magnification and searches for eggs. She/he enters a nil result in the LIMS and disposes of the sample in accordance with enterprise procedures.

Biomedical (2)

A technical officer is requested to determine the total protein concentration of a blood sample using colorimetry. After checking the condition of the sample, she/he collects the Biuret reagent from the refrigerator, the required number of tubes and protein control samples and standards specified in the method. The officer labels the tubes and then accurately dispenses the correct volumes of reagent, standards, controls and samples into them. The solutions are thoroughly mixed using a vortex mixer and allowed to stand for five minutes for the reaction to occur. She/he records absorbance readings for each tube and prepares a calibration curve. The officer reads the concentration values from the graph for the control and test samples and checks the control data against the expected values. As these fall within the accepted range, she/he enters the test results into the LIMS.

Range Statement

The range statement relates to the unit of competency as a whole. It allows for different work environments and situations that may affect performance. Bold italicised wording, if used in the performance criteria, is detailed below. Essential operating conditions that may be present with training and assessment (depending on the work situation, needs of the candidate, accessibility of the item, and local industry and regional contexts) may also be included.

Codes of practice

Where reference is made to industry codes of practice, and/or Australian/international standards, it is expected the latest version will be used

Standards, codes, procedures and/or enterprise requirements

Standards, codes, procedures and/or enterprise requirements may include:

Australian and international standards, such as:

AS 2134.1-1999 Recommended practice for chemical analysis by atomic absorption spectrometry - Flame atomic absorption spectrometry

AS 2162.1-1996 Verification and use of volumetric apparatus - General - Volumetric glassware

AS 3753-2001 Recommended practice for chemical analysis by ultraviolet/visible spectrophotometry

AS ISO 1000-1998 The international system of units (SI) and its application

AS ISO 17025-2005 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories

AS/NZS 2243 Set:2006 Safety in laboratories set

AS/NZS ISO 9000 Set:2008 Quality management systems set

Australian code of good manufacturing practice for medicinal products (GMP)

calibration and maintenance schedules

enterprise recording and reporting procedures

equipment manuals

equipment startup, operation and shutdown procedures

industry methods, such as Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and/or American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) methods for inorganic constituents

material safety data sheets (MSDS) and safety procedures

material, production and product specifications

national measurement regulations and guidelines

principles of good laboratory practice (GLP)

production and laboratory schedules

quality manuals and equipment and procedure manuals


waste minimisation and safe disposal procedures

Biological principles and concepts underpinning tests and procedures

Biological principles and concepts underpinning tests and procedures may include:

molecular interactions within the compounds of nucleic acids and nucleotides, proteins and amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids and vitamins, influencing structure, activity, chemical reactivity and physical properties, including solubility, energy levels and emission/absorption spectra

chemical and biochemical characteristics of lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and proteins influencing structure, function and reactivity both in vitro and in vivo

chemical significance of biologically significant ions, such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and phosphate

key metabolic pathways and the significance of initial nutrients, products and wastes on those pathways

structure and function of organelles, cells, plant and animal tissue and organs

interrelationships of biological systems (carbon cycle, energy cycle and the web of life)

classifications, such as bacteria, viruses, yeasts, single cell, multi-cellular, plants, animals, prions, helminths, prokaryotes and eukaryotes

phases of the cell cycle

Mendelian genetics, such as inheritance, meiosis, karyotypes, dominant and recessive traits, genotypes and phenotypes, and pedigrees

significance of the genetic code and transcription and translation

cell membrane activity, including diffusion (passive, facilitated and active), osmosis, tonicity and plasmolysis

staining reactions involving acid/base, redox, complex ion formation, solubility and equilibrium

Techniques for preparation of samples

Techniques for preparation of samples may include:

dissection, such as preparation of thymus extracts from mice

extraction (e.g. solvent extraction)

filtration (e.g. filter water samples and plate the sediment onto agar plates for incubation and growth of E. coli)

separation (e.g. dialysis)

precipitation and flocculation

centrifugation (excluding ultra centrifugation)


gel filtration chromatography (e.g. crude purification of proteins)

affinity chromatography (e.g. purification of immunoglobulins)


polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for separation of DNA segments

agarose gel electrophoresis

capillary electrophoresis

gradient gel electrophoresis

Techniques to classify cells or species

Techniques to classify cells or species may include:

classification of species according to taxa

classification of cells according to microscopic or staining characteristics

characteristics of bacterial colonies:

growth on differential media

colony morphology (size and shape)

biochemical reactions, such as miniaturised test strips, redox reactions and sugar tests

Techniques to analyse chemical and biological characteristics

Techniques to analyse chemical and biological characteristics may include:


Gram stain for gram negative and positive bacteria

Romanowsky stain for blood films

Haematoxylin and Eosin for tissue sections

Oil red O for fatty cellular inclusions

spore staining

flagella staining

microscopic examination:


phase contrast

bright field

dark ground


colorimetry and spectrophotometry:




flame emission

atomic absorption spectrometry



ion selective electrodes and polarography (e.g. concentration of chloride ions)


column and thin layer analytical and preparative chromatography

gas and liquid chromatography for purity, raw material and formulation checks


Hazards may include:

microbiological organisms and agents, associated with soil, air, water, blood and blood products, and human or animal tissue and fluids

chemicals, such as acids, solvents and stains

aerosols from broken centrifuge tubes and pipetting

sharps and broken glassware

flammable liquids and gases

cryogenics, such as dry ice and liquid nitrogen

fluids under pressure, such as steam, hydrogen in gas liquid chromatography and acetylene in atomic absorption spectrometry

sources of ignition

disturbance or interruption of services

Hazard control measures

Hazard control measures may include:

ensuring access to service shut-off points

recognising and observing hazard warnings and safety signs

labelling of samples, reagents, aliquoted samples and hazardous materials

handling and storage of hazardous materials and equipment in accordance with labelling, MSDS and manufacturer's instructions

identifying and reporting operating problems or equipment malfunctions

cleaning and decontaminating equipment and work areas regularly using enterprise procedures

using personal protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses, coveralls and gowns

using containment facilities (PCII, PCIII and PCIV physical containment laboratories), containment equipment (biohazard containers, laminar flow cabinets, Class I, II and III biohazard cabinets) and containment procedures

following established manual handling procedures

reporting abnormal emissions, discharges and airborne contaminants, such as noise, light, solids, liquids, water/waste water, gases, smoke, vapour, fumes, odour and particulates to appropriate personnel

Disposal of biohazardous wastes

Disposal of biohazardous wastes may include:

collection for sterilisation by autoclaving (e.g. autoclaving of microbiological plates)

appropriate storage (e.g. of waste containing radioactive isotopes)

use of biohazard waste containers


Records may include:

test calibration results

equipment use, maintenance and servicing history

faulty or unsafe equipment

batch number, catalogue number and use by date for analytical kits

Occupational health and safety (OHS) and environmental management requirements

OHS and environmental management requirements:

all operations must comply with enterprise OHS and environmental management requirements, which may be imposed through state/territory or federal legislation - these requirements must not be compromised at any time

all operations assume the potentially hazardous nature of samples and require standard precautions to be applied

where relevant, users should access and apply current industry understanding of infection control issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and State and Territory Departments of Health


Unit sector


Employability Skills

This unit contains employability skills.

Licensing Information

Not applicable.