LABORATORY SAFETY


Safety is vitally important for the laboratory. It is imperative that the entire laboratory staff understands the importance of safety training and the proper implementation of safety policies and procedures. By following a few simple precautions, potentially dangerous accidents can be prevented.

Maintain training records demonstrating that all laboratory staff have been trained in safety procedures, including infectious waste disposal, fire safety, electrical hazards, and general personal and technical safety procedures.

SAFETY OF PATIENTS

Patients should be prohibited form entering laboratory areas of the laboratory.

STANDARD PRECAUTIONS FOR SPECIMEN HANDLING

Use barrier protection to prevent skin and mucous membrane contamination while handling the following human body fluids.

Blood
Semen and vaginal secretions
Tissues, cerebral spinal fluid, synovial, pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, amniotic)

Standard precautions are not mandated for handling urine, feces, nasal secretions, sputum, saliva, sweat, tears, or vomitus unless the specimen is bloody. However, a laboratorian should consider all body fluids to be a source of infection and take appropriate precautions when handling them.

GENERAL LABORATORY SAFETY

- Handwashing is the single most important safety practice in the laboratory.
Wash hands:

After removing gloves or other personal protective equipment.
Before touching your eyes or mouth.
Immediately, if a specimen or reagent has been spilled on your bare hands.
Before eating, drinking, or smoking.

- Wear gloves whenever you:

Handle blood, body fluids, mucous membranes, or open wounds.
Touch items or surfaces soiled with blood or body fluids, including dried blood and body fluids.
Perform venipuncture, fingersticks, and other vascular access procedures.
Have cuts, scratches, dermatitis, or other breaks in your skin.
Universal Precaution: No gloves should be re-used. Replace when damaged.

- Wear protective clothing and equipment while performing laboratory procedures involving potentially infectious materials. Remove protective clothing and equipment before leaving the laboratory.

- Every laboratory should have easy access to an eyewash. The device should contain or accommodate enough water to flush the eyes and facial area continuously for 15 to 30 minutes.

- DO NOT recap, bend, or break needles after drawing blood. If it is necessary to recap, a one-handed, passive technique should be used.

- Do not eat, drink, smoke, handle contact lenses, or apply cosmetics or lip balm in the laboratory.

- Employers must offer the Hepatitis B vaccine series (free of charge) to any employee that is exposed on the job to the potentially infectious materials listed above. Employees who choose not to receive the Hepatitis B vaccination must sign a declination form.

- Use laboratory refrigerators ONLY for storage of reagents, controls, or specimens. No food or drink is allowed in laboratory refrigerators.

- Disinfect laboratory countertops daily. A 10% solution of household bleach and water (1 part bleach plus 9 parts water) is an effective disinfectant with both bacterial and viral organisms. Work areas should be wiped and allowed to soak. To retain potency and effectiveness, the 10% solution must be prepared daily. Wear utility gloves when cleaning.

- Clean spills up immediately. Spills that involve blood, urine, and reagents can be cleaned up with paper towels and by applying a 10% bleach solution to most spill sites. Gloves must be worn and other tools must be used to prevent personal and environmental contamination and cuts.

- Whenever possible, use disposable plastics rather than glass. Broken glass gives rise to “sharps” that may need to be handled in the same manner as needles.

- Pipette reagents with a mechanical pipette or a bulb. NEVER PIPETTE BY MOUTH!

- Never open a running centrifuge or slow it down using your hands, a pencil, or similar device. Disinfect all centrifuges regularly, following manufacturer’s instructions. Disinfect the centrifuge immediately after a spill. Centrifuges must be covered when in use (i.e., centrifuges must have a lid). Always balance specimens in the centrifuge.

- When operating a centrifuge, ensure proper balance is maintained. Imbalance of the rotor causes vibration, which increases wear on the centrifuge, and causes tubes to break more frequently.

- Inspect all tubes before centrifugation. Do not use cracked or scratched tubes.

- Pick up broken glass using a hemostat or other device, wearing puncture-resistant gloves. Do not simply use gloved hands to pick up potentially contaminated sharps. If a tube breaks inside the centrifuge, use forceps to remove any broken glass and clean the interior with a 1:10 dilution of chlorine bleach. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then rinse with water and dry.

- Clearly label all reagents and other materials. If caustic or volatile materials are used, store only minimal quantities on the premises. Establish a clean-up procedure to be followed in case of a spill or broken container. Sand or other absorbent material may be used to clean up chemical spills. Refer to the Material Safety Data Sheets in your laboratory's Hazardous Chemical Control Manual and train employees in their proper use.

INFECTIOUS WASTE HANDLING AND DISPOSAL

-Decontaminate infectious waste before disposal.

-Infectious waste (biohazard) containers, sharps and biohazard bags, should be conveniently located and of sufficient volume to accommodate the infectious waste generated by the laboratory. They must be labeled or color-coded in red to warn of biohazardous material.

-Biohazard containers should be handled with gloved hands.

-Microbiological cultures should not be discarded in sanitary sewers.

ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT

-Have an adequate number of grounded electrical outlets and enough lighting for safe laboratory operations. Be familiar with the location of circuit breakers for your laboratory. Electrical equipment must have safe cords and three prong grounded plugs.

-Maintain equipment properly to avoid electrical hazards. IF an electrical problem with a piece of equipment is suspected, immediately turn the equipment off, disconnect it from the outlet, and have it repaired.

FIRE SAFETY

-Mount a small, multi-use (ABC) fire extinguisher on the laboratory wall. The fire extinguisher should be tested and maintained by your Facilities officer, and all laboratory staff should know how to use it.

-Clearly mark exits from the building. All office personnel should know how to leave the building quickly in case of fire.

IN CASE OF ACCIDENT

-Notify the your officer as soon as possible after the incident. If an accident involves exposure to potentially infectious materials (e.g., a needle stick).

-Specific policies should be developed by each laboratory for the following items:

A list of the names and telephone numbers of persons incharge at the lab to contact in an emergency.
Procedures for cleanup of reagent and specimen spills (see your Hazardous Chemical Control Plan)
An accident log where the person’s name, type of accident, and the date are included.
Office evacuation plan.

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