Breathing Easy – What You Need to Know About Respiratory Protection

In the peak of the flu season you might see many people wearing masks. Do these protect the person wearing them? Do they protect you? Is that considered a respirator? These questions are important, but there are others you should ask about respiratory protection, especially if you work in a lab or clinic setting. OSHA’s… Continue reading Breathing Easy – What You Need to Know About Respiratory Protection

The SPILL Drill

Large biological and chemical spills are not a common occurrence in the laboratory. That’s a good thing, but when they do occur, they can create a very dangerous situation. It is vital that staff know how to handle such events even though they may not be commonplace. I was on site when a recent large… Continue reading The SPILL Drill

A Perspective on Lab Safety

I attended a work shop where different people were allowed to express their views on life from their generation’s perspective. One group representative said that members of the “Millennials” generation often acted as if entitled to things in life and don’t feel as if they have to work for it. A Millennial representative spoke up.… Continue reading A Perspective on Lab Safety

Lab Safety Leadership

The number of medical laboratory scientists is dwindling. Baby Boomers have been retiring, and even before that started, there were more laboratory job openings than people to fill them. That means more opportunities in the lab world, and in some cases leadership roles are being obtained by less experienced people than in years past. Whether… Continue reading Lab Safety Leadership

The PPE Compliance Conundrum

In a recent laboratory poll about Personal Protective Equipment, 85% of respondents said their biggest issues had nothing to do with selecting PPE, purchasing it, or training staff. The biggest issue they deal with on a day-to-day basis is PPE compliance – getting people to protect themselves when there is a potential for exposure to… Continue reading The PPE Compliance Conundrum

The Lab and the Pharmaceutical Rule- Do They Go Together?

Many laboratorians may not have noticed, but in February of this year, the EPA published the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendment to the P075 Listing for Nicotine, better known as the “Pharmaceutical Rule.” The updates created by these new laws affect pharmacies and how they handle hazardous waste, but they do not… Continue reading The Lab and the Pharmaceutical Rule- Do They Go Together?

Flying the Lab

The airline attendant went through her safety routine as usual. As usual, very few people paid attention. Many had heard it all before, or they were reading, napping, or talking. It made me wonder- what would really happen if there was a problem with this fight? Would people really know what to do? Would they… Continue reading Flying the Lab

The Physical Fix

The microbiology laboratory was newly remodeled, and the staff was excited to have windows in the department. But when summer came, it was unbearably hot in the department, and the building’s air handling systems could not keep the temperatures at a comfortable level. Eventually, staff began working without lab coats and someone brought portable fans… Continue reading The Physical Fix

Changes in Hazardous Waste Management- The Generator Improvement Rule

If you haven’t heard by now, you should know that the EPA published its Generator Improvement Rule (GIR) in 2016. It is an update to the organization’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a set of regulations regarding chemical waste management, which was passed back in 1976. The original regulations were mainly aimed at large… Continue reading Changes in Hazardous Waste Management- The Generator Improvement Rule

The Cost of Living Dangerously

Alicia was working the night shift, and she tripped on the edge of a floor mat while holding a rack of specimens. She had complained about the old mats before because the edges had been peeling up and they created a trip hazard. When she fell, her shoulder hit the counter’s edge, and the injury… Continue reading The Cost of Living Dangerously

The Safety Reaction

The toddler’s father let her hand go so he could pay for their dinner at the busy airport. The little girl quickly wandered away and suddenly found herself at the top of a long escalator that was going down. No one was watching. Miss Anderson was walking home as she did every day from the… Continue reading The Safety Reaction

Accidents Happen – Now What?

Susan was getting ready to work in the microbiology lab. She sat down after donning her lab coat, but before she put on gloves, she picked up some reports that were on the counter. As she picked them up, she noticed she got a small paper cut on her finger. Thinking nothing of it, she… Continue reading Accidents Happen – Now What?

A Plan for Your Life

I read a written Laboratory Emergency Management Plan, and at the end of the document there was a short section called “Planning for Home and Family Safety.” The procedure mentioned making emergency plans with family and friends and making arrangements for any children, other family members, or pets. As a laboratory employee, making such plans… Continue reading A Plan for Your Life

Doing What We’ve Always Done

The reference Cytology lab has always had limited storage space for supplies and specimens. They use tall wire racks to store the many liquid-based cytology specimen vials. The vials contain small amounts of flammable chemicals, and the shelves are seven feet high. They have followed this storage procedure for ten years. It took Jan four… Continue reading Doing What We’ve Always Done

Wasteful Questions

Understanding the proper separation and disposal of the various waste types generated in the lab setting is an important piece of managing the overall laboratory safety program. Educating staff about trash segregation, storage and packaging requirements, and providing required training can prevent unwanted exposures, environmental mishaps, and even fines. As a lab safety consultant, I… Continue reading Wasteful Questions

Fighting Fire…Again

Every October I try to write about fire safety in accordance with National Fire Protection Month. This year the saga continues into November since there is so much fire safety information to discuss! The basics of fire safety are important to review- fire extinguisher training, fire evacuation drills and more. But there is much more… Continue reading Fighting Fire…Again

Fighting Fire With Fire

In 1939 the first issue of Marvel Comics introduced the original Human Torch, an android named Jim Hammond who would burst into flames when exposed to oxygen. Fourteen years before that, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week to commemorate the Chicago fire of 1871 which killed over 300 people 54 years… Continue reading Fighting Fire With Fire

The Safety Interpretation

When hospitals were placed on OSHA’s list of “high-risk” work places, no one had to ask why. OSHA adjusts that list based on the number of injuries that occur on the job each year in specific industries, and the rising number of hospital incidents over a couple of years made the regulatory agency take notice.… Continue reading The Safety Interpretation

The Laboratory Safety Manual

Laboratory leadership should be committed to providing a safe working environment, and they should believe their employees have a right to know about health hazards associated with their work in the department.  In order for employees to make knowledgeable decisions about the personal risks of work in the lab, a comprehensive Laboratory Safety Manual should… Continue reading The Laboratory Safety Manual

Ergonomics in the Laboratory Setting

Sometimes when I am talking about lab safety and the topic turns to ergonomics, I get an unusual reaction from the audience- laughter. It surprises me because while a great many lab leaders a have the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture, they often won’t see it when considering ergonomics safety.… Continue reading Ergonomics in the Laboratory Setting

When the Cat’s Away…

Two lab technologists were bored while working on a slow night shift in the lab. They decided to take the leftover dry ice and put it in the sink to make a fog in the laboratory. After running water on the dry ice for a few minutes, the lab was fogging up. Suddenly the two… Continue reading When the Cat’s Away…

The Path to Pathogens

In December of 1991, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put forth a regulation that was designed to minimize healthcare workers’ exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material (OPIM).  The regulation came about in large part as a response to a rising trend of cases of employee exposure to HIV and HBV in… Continue reading The Path to Pathogens

Changes in Laboratory Waste Management

In the past, if a laboratory or a facility generated less than 220 pounds (or 100 kilograms) of hazardous (chemical) waste each month, it was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Very Small Quantity Generator of waste (or VSQG). In order to remove the hazardous waste from such a site, a contracted… Continue reading Changes in Laboratory Waste Management

Lab Safety – The Letter of the Law

Jackie considered herself to be a great lab tech. She was proud that she followed the rules of the department, especially the safety regulations. Jackie just knew she would have an exciting career that would be free from any lab exposures or incidents, and her proper use of PPE would ensure that she didn’t bring… Continue reading Lab Safety – The Letter of the Law

Staffing ABCs

When I was growing up near Buffalo, New York, experiencing two snow storms in three weeks was no big deal- in fact it was rather commonplace. When I joined the laboratory workforce, those storms really didn't affect day-to-day operations in the hospitals where I worked. That's not true in Virginia where I live today. Our… Continue reading Staffing ABCs

The Workaround

Laboratorians are resourceful, and if you follow them through their work day, you would be amazed at some of the processes they have put into place in order to perform the tasks they’ve been assigned to do.  Not all of these processes follow the written lab procedures, though. Not all of them are acceptable by… Continue reading The Workaround

Taking Controls

The well-established “Hierarchy of Controls” is a system used to eliminate or reduce hazards in the workplace. Whether or not you’ve heard this term, if you work in the laboratory, you’ve been an active participant in this system of safety. The purpose of the hierarchy is to protect employees who work in hazardous areas (like… Continue reading Taking Controls

The Range of Chemical Risk

The first time you pick up a bottle of hydrochloric acid, if you’ve been properly educated about the dangers, it can be scary. You handle the bottle carefully, and you’re sure not to spill at all. The next few times, nothing has happened, and you’re confidence is high. You handle the chemical with less care.… Continue reading The Range of Chemical Risk

Fanning the Flames

The fire started in the university chemistry laboratory when a research student use a flammable chemical too close to the open flame. It started as a relatively small fire, and if the student had been given fire safety training, he may have known how to handle it safely. Feeling that is was a better idea… Continue reading Fanning the Flames

Back in Time

Flying back to my home state of Virginia from the West Coast is never fun for me. Recently, I spent a week at a conference in San Diego, and on the last day I was able to sleep in until 5 a.m. local time! I knew, though, that I would lose time flying back home,… Continue reading Back in Time


In my youth, going to see a movie was a big deal. There were snapshot advertisements in the newspapers, and you might catch a trailer for the movie on the television, but it was rare since we only had three or four channels. Often there was not much information about the movie ahead of time.… Continue reading Spoilers

By The Numbers- Lab Injury and Exposure Data

Finding information about the number of Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAIs) and other laboratory injuries in the United States is difficult. Not all events are reported, and of those that are reported at the facility level, only some are required to be reported to national agencies. The CDC reports cites four studies that collectively identified 4,079… Continue reading By The Numbers- Lab Injury and Exposure Data

Designed for Safety

The laboratory manager was in a hospital that was designing a new stand-alone emergency department building which would include a rapid response laboratory. For some reason, he was not asked to be a part of the initial design team. After a few months, he asked to be able to join the meetings. Construction had begun… Continue reading Designed for Safety

Can’t Touch This

In the realm of laboratory safety, we’ve come a long way regarding our understanding of bloodborne pathogens, and it has changed our behaviors over the years. No longer is it the norm to eat or drink in the lab. Newer staff are not quite sure what mouth pipetting is, and when it is explained to… Continue reading Can’t Touch This

As Simple as A-B-C

When it comes to safety in the laboratory, there are several rules, regulations and guidelines to keep track of from multiple organizations. If your responsibilities for lab safety are shared with other job duties, that makes keeping track of these regulations even more difficult. If you’re having a hard time keeping up as a lab… Continue reading As Simple as A-B-C


Jack worked in the hospital maintenance department, and when he saw the old lab refrigerator sitting on the loading dock waiting to be disposed of, he came up with an idea. That night he and his friend picked up the refrigerator from the hospital and moved it to their hunting cabin where they would use… Continue reading Decommissioned

Do You Care about You?

As laboratorians, we think very little about ergonomics until we start to suffer with some sort of pain or injury that interferes with the things we set out to do. We’re not very proactive about ergonomics, and that’s not just true in our field of work. It’s not because we don’t care about ourselves, but… Continue reading Do You Care about You?

Fanning the Flames – The Fire Exit Drill

There are over 200 hospital fires every year in the United States. Although the majority of these occur in the Operating Room areas, laboratory fires can and do occur. Every October I like to talk about fire safety in the lab in conjunction with National Fire Safety Month. You should have a solid fire safety… Continue reading Fanning the Flames – The Fire Exit Drill

Where Do We Begin?

As many of you know, I worked with Terry Jo Gile, The Safety Lady®, for five years before she retired in December of 2013. One thing I noticed was that some people in the Lab Safety field come and go! Some of us have been here for a long time, while others are new to… Continue reading Where Do We Begin?

The Way I See It

Perspective plays an important role in Laboratory Safety. For instance, when you see John working with no gloves on, you (hopefully) will go to him and let him know he needs to be using PPE in the lab. We very often tell ourselves stories about what we see, and that can affect our approach –… Continue reading The Way I See It

Safety Training by Accident

Safety awareness in the laboratory does not happen by accident. Initial training and on-going education should be a part of your overall lab safety program. One way to do that is to review a different safety topic each month with your staff. There are certainly more than twelve topics in the field of lab safety,… Continue reading Safety Training by Accident

The CDC- Could It Happen to You?

Unless you work in the laboratories at the CDC, you probably don’t know all of the details of the actual safety lapses that occurred recently. These issues led to the potential exposure of several employees to highly dangerous pathogens. When speaking on these issues, the CDC director stated that he knew there were flaws in… Continue reading The CDC- Could It Happen to You?

Be Ready for Ebola in your Laboratory

With the events occurring in our world regarding the Ebola outbreak and the related events in our own country, hospitals everywhere in the U.S. are preparing for the possibility of dealing with a suspected or confirmed Ebola patient. That affects laboratories as well. There is much information available, and some of it changes daily. The… Continue reading Be Ready for Ebola in your Laboratory

The Safety Medical Director

After I gave a lab presentation at this year’s AACC conference in Chicago, a doctor came to me and told me he thought the information I spoke about was very valuable. He said he did not hear about lab safety enough and that more doctors should be aware of the information I was giving.  I… Continue reading The Safety Medical Director

Looking for a Sign

As I was getting ready to head to New York City for a quick vacation, I was at the train platform wondering if I was in the right place. There were no clear signs. There wasn’t anybody around to answer questions. When the first train came in, it was a commuter train, not the long… Continue reading Looking for a Sign

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