LAB SAFETY

Lab Safety Compliance: Match Your PPE to the Hazard

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers protect workers from hazards in the workplace. PPE such as a gown is one measure for protecting health care workers from exposure to hazards such as infected blood and other specimens. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued guidance last year regarding gowns that provides a good example of why it is important to make sure you have the specific PPE needed for the hazards in your lab.

The FDA’s guidance concerning gowns used in health care settings called attention to the inconsistent terminology regarding gowns that can create confusion. Acknowledging that terminology for gowns “has evolved,” the FDA noted that gowns are described using many different terms, including surgical gowns, cover gowns, comfort gowns, and isolation gowns. So it issued guidance to describe its “premarket regulatory requirements and the performance testing needed to support liquid barrier claims for gowns intended for use in health care settings.” That guidance raises a good point about PPE. Periodically reevaluate the hazards in your laboratory and the PPE your staff are using. Is it appropriate for the current hazard? Does it meet current standards for that type of PPE?

Specifically with regard to gowns, the FDA explained that it’s important “for both industry and gown users to have a clear and consistent understanding of the terms used to describe the protective ability of gowns.” That’s good advice for all PPE you use in your lab. Make sure you know its qualifications and proper usage. Educate your personnel about the protective qualities of PPE used in your lab and ensure that the PPE and how its used by staff properly address the hazards your lab staff face.

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