While attending a conference recently, I noticed there were several talks about the importance of lab advocacy. It’s an important subject- laboratorians have spent years in the basement performing the tests which lead to the majority of diagnoses provided for patients. While it seems fairly easy for larger groups (like nurses, for example) to get… Continue reading Where Lab Advocacy Meets Lab Safety
Laboratories are a unique workplace of of scientific inquiry and diagnoses, but they also pose specific risks to those who work within their confines. One significant concern is the potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens, which can lead to serious infections and health complications if not managed properly. To mitigate these risks, laboratories must adhere to… Continue reading Safeguard Your Staff: OSHA Requirements for Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Plans
Ergonomics is a safety topic that gets little respect in the laboratory, but it can become very important over time. The effects of poor ergonomics are cumulative, and they can appear suddenly. When they arise, the pain and treatment are often difficult, and as people age, healing is slower as well. Because the consequences of… Continue reading Laboratory Ergonomics: It’s In the Details
The lab manager reported to me that an employee had a body fluid splash to the mouth, and the manager and the employee both wanted to know if it should be reported. At this point, the story breaks down into two pathways of discussion, one about lab exposures and one about the safety culture. Each… Continue reading The Strange Anatomy of a Lab Exposure
When it comes to making a decision about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the laboratory, OSHA is pretty clear about how to go about making the selection. The use of risk assessments and task assessments is required by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard, and these can be essential tools in making decisions regarding safety throughout the… Continue reading Probable Problems with Phlebotomists and PPE
I have been a fan of Godzilla movies since my childhood, and the latest release (number 37 in the franchise for those keeping track) was not a disappointment. Godzilla Minus One is a Toho Studios production set in post-World War 2 Japan, a time when the country felt it was at level zero, its lowest… Continue reading Laboratory Safety Minus One
I recently completed a seven-month stint as an interim laboratory manager. One of my leaders asked me if the time in that role had altered my perspective about lab safety. Would I now treat other lab managers differently when I’m back to my Lab Safety Officer role? Would I be less strict about safety violations… Continue reading Lab Safety Lessons
Margie had worked in the histology department for years. She never used the chemical fume hood when pouring formaldehyde, but lately she had been coughing quite a bit, so she decided it was time to use the hoods. Soon she would be diagnosed with lung cancer. Jasper was a cytotechnologist working in the radiology department… Continue reading Special Safety in the Anatomic Pathology Laboratory
Living in Virginia, hurricane season usually has me thinking about lab disaster plans and the risk of a real natural disaster. In the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, the highest hurricane risk occurs between September and November. So far this year, a few storms have pointed in this direction, but luckily, they have all… Continue reading The Risk of Disaster
The lab technologist approached the Lab Safety Officer to ask what should be done with a collection of liquid wastes that were collected from the chemistry analyzers. The LSO had worked with multiple labs for years helping to determine how to dispose of their liquid chemical wastes according to the regulations. He thought he was… Continue reading 3 Rules Regarding Chemical Waste in the Laboratory
There are several potential safety indicators that can be used to help someone assess the effectiveness of a laboratory safety program. The results of a properly performed safety audit can be one of those indicators, and it can provide useful information to a lab safety professional whether he or she is new to the role… Continue reading The Big Three- Safety Audit Blunders to Avoid
A multitude of employee injuries over a six-month period did nothing to get the attention of the laboratory leadership. The Employee Health nurse was nearing retirement, and she didn’t pay attention to the fact that these injuries all came from the same area- the autopsy suite- and that many had a common cause. The pathologist… Continue reading Managing Up for Safety
Pete began his shift in the hematology department. He liked to use the counter-mounted safety shield when opening specimens because he did not like to wear goggles over his eyeglasses. When it was time to read differential slides, he knew he could not look into the microscope with his glasses on, so he reached up… Continue reading Faster Than the Eye Can Follow
I love to ride roller coasters. I enjoy the twists and turns, the steep hills, the loops, and even the sudden stops. I even prefer launched coasters that take off right from the start at high speeds. Wooden roller coasters are good too, because they add the elements of shaking and feeling like you might… Continue reading Totally Tubular
Laboratorians work with vendor or field service representatives on a regular basis, and it is important to develop a good working relationship with each of them to ensure continued smooth operations in the department. They provide analyzers, products, equipment, and services. However, lab managers and employees need to pay special attention to the actions a… Continue reading 3 Safety Mistakes Your Vendors Are Making
Specimen handling and transport is a vital training topic in the realm of Laboratory Safety. There is much to consider that affects specimen quality and integrity, and ultimately affects patient results. There are also considerations involving employee safety at each step of these processes. One group of employees that is often overlooked when it comes… Continue reading Scary Specimen Transport Stories and Ways to Avoid Them
In 2016, because of a number of incidents in several national high-containment laboratories, a “Safety Stand Down” was recommended. That term gets use often, but not everyone understands how a safety stand down works. Has your department been in a similar situation? Have you encountered a series of like safety events that created the need… Continue reading What is a Safety Stand Down?
I am a pretty simple person, and the extravagant things of life do not generally entice me. I recently had the unusual opportunity to fly while sitting in the first-class section of the airplane, and it sort of made me feel like a fish out of water. It was nice not to have to pay… Continue reading Safety Training In and Out of Water
As a super-hero fan, I was excited for several reasons to see the latest Marvel movie, Wakanda Forever. One reason was that the movie would mark the first live-action appearance of one of my favorite characters, Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Namor made his first appearance in comic books in 1939, and while that is well before… Continue reading The Sub-Mariner and the Safety Shower
A recent internet sensation is Tariq, the newest “corn-bassador” of South Dakota. During an interview that was posted on Instagram, the young boy from Brooklyn, New York describes corn on the cob like a poet. Corn was new to him, it was exciting, and young Tariq said he “couldn’t imagine a more beautiful thing!” For… Continue reading Is Lab Safety Corny?
One of the great disaster movies of the 1970’s was The Towering Inferno. It was a story that took place during the grand opening of a new skyscraper. Of course, one of the engineers cut costs during construction and used cheap wiring which led to a fire disaster of major proportions. During the 3 hour… Continue reading Towering Over Safety
There is a new “pox” on lab safety- monkeypox. Like the most recent novel virus (COVID-19), the unknowns about the monkeypox virus is creating new safety concerns for laboratorians, and it is time now to nip unnecessary fears in the bud. That is done through preparation and education. There are many questions that have arisen.… Continue reading A Pox on Lab Safety
Often, I am asked how the person who is responsible for laboratory safety (yet has other duties as well) can get the job done well. In today’s labs there is tight staffing, tight budgeting, and a score of regulatory duties that must be accomplished, and not all of these things revolve solely around safety. Many… Continue reading Lab Safety in One Second
When the fire began in the university chemistry laboratory, it quickly got out of hand. They called the local fire department since the flames became too much for extinguishers to handle. When the fire trucks arrived, the battalion chief asked for a chemical inventory so that his crew would be aware of what dangers they… Continue reading Chemical Hygiene Hacks to Hold High
In many organizations, managing safety is not always a full- time job. Many have to oversee the safety program while also managing other day-to-day operations and other programs. Some safety professionals are lucky enough to be able to spend all of their time focused on the safety program. Either way, the safety role usually includes… Continue reading What’s Next for Safety?- Succession Planning
A High Reliability Organization (HRO) is one that works with complex and hazardous systems every day and yet retains a high level of safety and an error free environment. The first recognized HRO industries were the United States Navy nuclear aircraft carriers, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control systems, and nuclear power plant operations.… Continue reading High Reliability Safety- The Checklist
If you are sending specimens outside of your lab for testing or for other purposes, there are many things to consider. Not just anyone in the laboratory should prepare the specimens for shipment, specific training is required. Staff needs to have knowledge about packing procedures, specimen safety considerations, and how to fill out the necessary… Continue reading Packing for the Journey- Specimen Shipping and Handling
Pete picked up his rack of specimens that needed to be delivered to the serology lab across the hall. He wore gloves because he was handling specimens, and he pushed the lab exit door open using the knob. He walked across the hallway in his PPE, and he opened the door to the serology lab… Continue reading 3 Secrets Regarding Contamination in the Lab
In the 1964 classic movie, Mothra versus Godzilla (released in the US as Godzilla vs. the Thing), a giant egg is washed ashore after a hurricane in Japan. Godzilla finds the egg and tries to break it, but when it hatches, twin giant worms are released which end up causing trouble for the title monster.… Continue reading Opening a Safety Can of Worms
Many years ago, I was hired to perform a safety audit for a laboratory. As I walked through one department, an employee asked what I was doing. When I remarked that I was finding safety issues in order to keep her safe, she asked, “what are you keeping me safe from?” It was the right… Continue reading Asking The Wrong Safety Questions
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. Mrs. Anders was walking home as she did every day from the… Continue reading The Safety Reaction
In the latest Marvel superhero movie, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a new villain is introduced to fans not familiar with the comic books. Older readers know, however, that Shang-Chi’s father represents a well-known comic book villain, the Mandarin. The Mandarin found and explored the wreckage of a spaceship. Within the… Continue reading Imagined or Real? Super Villain Origin Stories
The number of medical laboratory scientists (now clinical lab scientists) is dwindling. Baby Boomers have begun to retire, and even before that, there were more job openings than people to fill them. That means more opportunities in the lab field, and in some cases leadership roles are being obtained by less experienced people than in… Continue reading Leading Safety in the Lab
Whenever Jacob, the histology lab employee, poured the waste chemicals into the large barrel in the lab’s Central Accumulation Area, he always wore a face shield as well as a lab coat and gloves. He felt he was prepared because he knew this task had a high risk of splashing and potential chemical exposure. When… Continue reading Designed for Safety: Safety Showers and Floods
The lab employee felt faint in the middle of her shift and she sat down quickly on the lab stool. She asked to be taken to the Emergency Department, so her co-worker rolled her down the hallway on the stool. In the hallway, the employee slipped off of the stool and fell to the floor… Continue reading A Code to Call for Your Lab Co-Worker
If you search for top motivational movie speeches, you will see things that might work in real life. The President’s speech from Independence Day (1996), for example, might influence you to never be oppressed by alien tyranny. Freedom will be your rally cry after listening to William Wallace in Braveheart (1995), or Maximus from Gladiator… Continue reading Four Motivators Every Lab Safety Professional Should Know
Many years ago, a woman purchased a cup of coffee in a restaurant drive-through. Not having a cup holder available in her car, she placed the cup between her legs to hold the coffee while she reached for money to pay for it. She burned her legs, sued the restaurant, and actually won her court… Continue reading 3 Unwritten Safety Rules Every Lab Should Follow
In January of 1962, Tales to Astonish #27, a comic book, featured a scientist who had created a special chemical. This chemical, when put in contact with an object, would shrink it! When the scientist tried the concoction on himself, he shrunk to the size of an ant! In time this scientist became the Astonishing… Continue reading From Ant-Men to Giant-Men
In discussions with laboratory safety professionals across the country this year, some of the same safety issues seemed to crop up over and over. Lab staff are tired, they’re fatigued about dealing with COVID-19, and they just don’t seem to be focused on lab safety anymore. They aren’t following good safety practices, they aren’t wearing… Continue reading Pandemic Fatigue: Feels Like Starting Over
The majority of laboratory injuries and exposures are preventable, and most of them occur because people are not paying close attention to the situation. They lose their situational awareness or were never paying attention to it from the start. Unfortunately, safety professionals spend a great deal of time investigating such incidents rather than focusing on… Continue reading The Power of the Pause
As we prepare to say good-bye and good riddance to the year 2020, we hesitatingly welcome 2021. What will the new year bring? Can it be worse than last year? Are we prepared to deal with what else may be coming? Did we learn lessons in 2020 that will help us? These are valid questions… Continue reading A New Year in Lab Safety
The year 2020 is roaring quickly to a close, and COVID-19 is (unfortunately) still around. We have made changes to our lives at home, in public, and at work. Healthcare workers, in particular, made several changes early on with PPE use and work practices that are still in effect today. A great deal of work… Continue reading Becoming a “COVID Captain”
In Isaac Asimov’s writings about science, he created “the three laws,” a set of rules designed by humans that robots must follow in that fictional society. Robots cannot harm human beings, they must obey humans (unless it conflicts with the first law), and they must protect themselves from harm (unless that conflicts with the first… Continue reading The Three Laws: Sharps Safety
As a safety professional, we know performing risk assessments is worth it- it is an integral piece of managing a safety program. Assessing risks and identifying hazards are considered the beginning steps that must be completed when approaching the management of any safety-related area. Risk assessments are the starting point for handling a bloodborne pathogens… Continue reading Is it Worth the Risk Assessment?
OSHA has once again published its list of its most-cited standards. This time, they discuss the 2019 heavy-hitters, and once again, chemical management issues top the list. Year after year organizations are fined for incomplete management of their chemical hygiene program. Labs have it even harder- they have to adhere to two sets of standards,… Continue reading Laboratory Chemical Hygiene: A Quick Guide

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