Clinical laboratories can be dangerous places. Lab users often face dangers from working in an environment containing biohazards. The use of personal protective equipment and standard precautions are keys to ensuring user safety in a customized laboratory.
Good disinfection practices and maintaining a clean and orderly lab environment are also vital to lab safety. For example, areas contaminated with biohazards or cluttered workspaces often threaten the safety of visitors and employees.
You should conduct audits of the physical environment of a lab to identify hazards to safety. Audits should be performed regularly, at least monthly, and do not need to interfere with the day-to-day pathology lab process. The placement of new equipment, the movement of and stocking of pathology lab supplies, and the movement of instruments can occur at any time. You should notice the implications of these changes to safety.
Always be sure that aisles are clear of obstructions or boxes, especially when they lead to fire evacuation routes. Keeping loose wires from keyboards or computers properly tied and ensuring lab floors are regularly cleaned is essential for cleaning protocols. A pathology lab floor should be wet mopped at least once a day in any biohazard area.
Replacing anti-fatigue mats on the floor regularly to ensure that wear does not create tripping or slipping hazards can be helpful to avoid dangerous falls from occurring on walkways. In addition, keep paraffin wax buildup under control in histology areas. You can do this with the use of scrapers or other implements as it occurs.
Ensure that the fire extinguisher, emergency eyewash, showers, and other safety equipment are unobstructed at all times. Easy access to blood-borne pathogen and chemical spill response kits is vital. Keep three feet of clearance in front of department electrical panels and check electric cords for fraying or other damage. You can potentially damage electric cords just from the simple movement of equipment within the laboratory. Exposed wiring increases fire risk.
Prevent tipping of compressed gas tanks and ensure they are adequately secured. Manage messy workspaces, as cluttered pathology lab workbenches can cause hazards for users. Dusting lab areas regularly to avoid contact with molds and other air contaminants that can interfere with lab testing is vital. Remember that electric fans should never be used in a pathology lab setting because they can circulate air contaminants. They also interfere with other safety airflow devices, like biological safety cabinets or chemical hoods. In addition, fans can interfere with lab room airflow that is meant to be maintained to protect users.
Lab benches should be kept orderly and disinfected after every work shift and after any spills occur. Because of the nature of bio-hazardous materials used in the lab, intermediate-level chemical germicides should be used to disinfect lab areas. Commercial cleaning products should be effective enough to eliminate most bacteria on surfaces. Always be aware of contact times needed for disinfecting chemicals to do their job on laboratory services properly. Disinfecting action often does not occur immediately. The wet product should be left on the surface or counter for the recommended amount of time designated by the product manufacturer. Wiping a disinfectant-treated area down with paper towels or water to dry the area before the contact time required for disinfection has elapsed is a potentially dangerous practice that can lead to infection.
Educating staff on the proper use of germicidal chemicals is critical for infection prevention in the pathology lab space. Maintaining the safety of the physical lab environment requires regular cleaning and disinfection of lab surfaces and routinely wiping down computers, chairs, telephones, and other small items like pens and timers. Even the smallest things risk becoming contaminated when lab workers handle them with gloves they wore during sample handling.
Completing an assessment of the physical lab space includes correcting all issues discovered and educating lab staff to prevent reoccurrence in the future. Provide employees with a review of proper disinfection practices and good use of products when necessary. Bio-hazardous material accidents and spills can occur, so it is vital to have supplies ready for adequate spill cleanup. In addition, you should prepare materials in any lab in the event of a spill of blood or body fluids.
PPE implements for handling broken glass, absorbents, and disposable bags or containers are an essential part of a spill kit. Check kits periodically to ensure all required supplies are present and place clear signs indicating the location. Train all staff in spill cleanup procedures regularly and conduct spill drills to help staff respond quickly and appropriately when accidents occur. Be sure to have sufficient amounts of neutralizers and absorbents available in case chemical spills happen.
Working in a pathology lab setting involves working with hazardous materials and complex procedures. Keeping lab users safe can be accomplished by maintaining a safe and clean physical environment and providing plenty of work practice procedures and education for users. Be on the lookout for physical hazards and practices that are unsafe. And correct them immediately to continue to maintain a safe environment.
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