Attention Medical Laboratory Professionals: Did You Know That June Is National Safety Month?
The answer for most of us is probably “No, I didn’t.”
First, a little bit of history, then we’ll dive right into the meat and potatoes of this post. In 1996 The National Safety Council designated June as National Safety Month to promote safety in the workplace.
For medical laboratory workers, good safety policies and best practices can literally be lifesavers.
Let’s look at some statistics. From a 2019 study of academic lab environments cited by the Laboratory Safety Institute:
25-38% of lab personnel surveyed have been involved in an accident or injury in the lab that was not reported to the supervisor or principal investigator.
I think lab workers and human resources professionals would unanimously agree that this is an unacceptably high percentage of unreported injuries.
As a medical laboratory supervisor or employee, are you asking yourself what you can do to make sure that your lab environment is safe and secure for the entire workforce?
This post will provide laboratory professionals with some interesting safety tips and resources to consider. You might be involved in developing corporate safety policies and practices, or you might simply want to stay safe in the workplace. Either way, we hope you find this information useful. And above all, we sincerely want everyone to stay safe!
Laboratory professionals can be exposed to many different types of hazards, including:
- Biological Agents
- Many Other Potentially Dangerous Substances Too Numerous To Mention!
There are also many different types of jobs and titles in this diverse profession and many different types of laboratories with highly diverse scopes.
Given this depth and diversity in the laboratory industry, we wanted to leave you with a list of useful safety tips and suggestions for laboratories of all shapes, sizes, and scopes.
From the laboratory management experts at Lab Manager:
The following are rules that relate to almost every laboratory and should be included in most safety policies. They cover what you should know in the event of an emergency, proper signage, safety equipment, safely using laboratory equipment, and basic common-sense rules.
- Be sure to read all fire alarm and safety signs and follow the instructions in the event of an accident or emergency.
- Ensure you are fully aware of your facility’s/building’s evacuation procedures.
- Make sure you know where your lab’s safety equipment—including first aid kit(s), fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, and safety showers—is located and how to properly use it.
- Know emergency phone numbers to use to call for help in case of an emergency.
- Lab areas containing carcinogens, radioisotopes, biohazards, and lasers should be properly marked with the appropriate warning signs.
- Open flames should never be used in the laboratory unless you have permission from a qualified supervisor.
- Make sure you are aware of where your lab’s exits and fire alarms are located.
- An area of 36″ diameter must be kept clear at all times around all fire sprinkler heads.
- If there is a fire drill, be sure to turn off all electrical equipment and close all containers.
- Always work in properly ventilated areas.
- Do not chew gum, drink, or eat while working in the lab.
- Laboratory glassware should never be utilized as food or beverage containers.
- Each time you use glassware, be sure to check it for chips and cracks. Notify your lab supervisor of any damaged glassware so it can be properly disposed of.
- Never use lab equipment that you are not approved or trained by your supervisor to operate.
- If an instrument or piece of equipment fails during use or isn’t operating properly, report the issue to a technician right away. Never try to repair an equipment problem on your own.
- If you are the last person to leave the lab, make sure to lock all the doors and turn off all ignition sources.
- Do not work alone in the lab.
- Never leave an ongoing experiment unattended.
- Never lift any glassware, solutions, or other types of apparatus above eye level.
- Never smell or taste chemicals.
- Do not pipette by mouth.
- Make sure you always follow the proper procedures for disposing of lab waste.
- Report all injuries, accidents, and broken equipment or glass right away, even if the incident seems small or unimportant.
- If you have been injured, yell out immediately and as loud as you can to ensure you get help.
- In the event of a chemical splashing into your eye(s) or on your skin, immediately flush the affected area(s) with running water for at least 20 minutes.
- If you notice any unsafe conditions in the lab, let your supervisor know as soon as possible.
And remember, when in doubt, call 911!
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