Lab testing is the standard part of diagnosing various types of diseases. However, the laboratory can be a hazardous environment to work in unless there are appropriate safety policies and procedures in place. The emergence of highly infectious diseases such as Ebola, hepatitis and HIV, has made health and safety in clinical laboratories an increasingly important topic.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed laboratory standards aimed at reducing the risk of injury or illness to laboratory workers by ensuring that they have the information, lab equipment, training and support required to work safely. Let’s take a look at some of the recommended measures to promote safety in clinical and research laboratories.
- Personal Protective Equipment – Lab professionals must use designated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as lab coats, closed-toe shoes, and protective eyewear inside the lab to prevent blood and other infectious materials from coming into contact with the skin and clothing.
- Biosafety Cabinets (BSCs) – Laboratories must be equipped with Biosafety Cabinets (BSCs) to protect personnel, products and the environment from contact with biohazards and from cross contamination during routine procedures.
- Specimen handling – All specimens must be labeled soon after collection. Personnel should wear protective latex or nitrile gloves while handling specimens. Lab workers must also wash their hands properly after handling specimens and before and after entering the laboratory. Accurate labeling of all bottles, tubes and containers is critical to avoid risk of mix-ups and potentially dangerous disasters. The tops of all specimen containers, blood-collection tubes, and sample tubes should be tightly secured before analysis or storage.
- Blood collection – Needle stick injuries can be prevented if the approved equipment is used with caution. Safe blood collection needles are designed to ensure that needle protection is activated whilst the needle is still in the vein.
- Clean surfaces – Surfaces need to be disinfected using disinfectants recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Registered disinfectants are effective against hepatitis B virus, HIV, and other blood-borne pathogens.
- Waste disposal – Contaminated waste should be placed in a biohazard bag for disposal. Biohazard bags should be used only once. Needles and syringes need to be placed in leak- and puncture-resistant containers and appropriately labeled with the word “Biohazard” and the universal biohazard symbol for decontamination and disposal.
- Training – Laboratory workers should be trained in the use of all lab equipment and well aware of the possible hazards when working with different types of equipment. Laboratory workers should follow cleaning, maintenance and calibration schedules to ensure all the devices are working properly. For instance, centrifuges can be extremely dangerous if not properly cleaned, maintained and operated. Due to the high speed at which they operate, this device has great potential for injuring users if not operated properly. Unbalanced centrifuge rotors can also cause injury.
Top quality lab instruments have greatly reduced risks in laboratory operations. For instance, modern centrifuges come with safety features such as speed control knob and braking system. In Beckman Coulter centrifuges, the motor, drive, instrument and containment are carefully matched to ensure safe operation, though user awareness in also critical. Labs need to invest in instruments that meet the prescribed safety and quality standards. Purchase from a reliable laboratory equipment store will also ensure timely and efficient maintenance service to ensure safe operation, reduced downtime and improved productivity.