The evolving COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world - the way we educate, the way we conduct business, and the way we socialize (or don’t). In the lab and clinic settings, there are many practices and procedures that have changed or are now being questioned. Sometimes the answer evolves quickly, sometimes there is national guidance… Continue reading Lab Safety- A Return to “Normal”
In 1950 the United States National Safety Council began describing what became known as the “hierarchy of controls.” Often depicted as a pyramid, it lists (in order of importance and effectiveness) the methods required to separate employees from potential hazards on the job. Later, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) worked with… Continue reading COVID-19 and The Pyramid – Protecting Laboratorians
The COVID-19 pandemic is peaking in the United States, and many things are being affected in unprecedented ways. Schools are closing, business travel is banned, gatherings are canceled, and stores are out of…toilet paper. There are supply shortages that are peaking as well, and some of the items that have become hard to get include… Continue reading My PPE is Back-Ordered- Now What? COVID-19 Alternate Safe Practices
With the rapid spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19), many lab folks have raised questions about the potential affects to their job, their safety and their health. A new pathogen has emerged, and like previous bugs, its virulence and infectivity start out unknown, and fears grow. It’s an interesting phenomenon from the perspective of one… Continue reading The Psychiatry of Lab Safety
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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 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
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
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 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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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…
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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?
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 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

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