LAB SAFETY

Safety lapses continue with select agents

By Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ)  bio

The approach of the holiday season signals the end of another year. Was this just another year in a long line of them for you in lab safety, or was it the beginning of a new journey? No matter where you are in your lab safety professional career, this time of year is a good time for reflection. What accomplishments in lab safety have you had this year? Did you just barely stay afloat or did you actually meet some of your goals?

We all live in a goal-driven society, and we know that the laboratory field is goal-oriented as well. Goals are important, but focusing on them is never a good practice. When it comes to lab safety, focusing on the process of achieving the goal is more important than the goal itself. Think about what you can do today to make a difference–even if it’s something that will only take you five minutes. A “quick hit” toward your overall goal does make a difference, and those hits add up over time. That’s one secret to safety success–focus on the process.

If looking back over the past year makes you frown, it’s definitely time to only look ahead. What are you going to do tomorrow–what one action will you perform–in order to make a positive difference in your lab safety culture? It can be as simple as asking someone to button up their lab coat or to put their cell phone away–but do that one thing. You’ll see the results over time…and we’ll come back next year at this time and talk about it. Happy Holidays!

Select Agent Labs Still Not Operating Safely

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that the nation’s 276 laboratories that handle select agents continue to have safety lapses. A select agent is a biological agent or toxin that has the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety or to the health of animals and plants. The Ebola virus is an example of a select agent, and these laboratories reportedly lack oversight and appropriate risk assessments for the work performed. For more details about the issues, click here. Have you performed appropriate risk assessments in your laboratory? Make sure you are adequately protecting your staff from the hazards they face every day.

Safety Considerations in Lab Staffing

A laboratory faced with striking workers has been accused of having leadership perform testing without proper training and competency. Leadership has denied the claims, but the story raises a good question about lab Emergency Management. What is your lab plan if staffing decreases because of a disaster situation? A natural disaster or an influenza pandemic are just two possible reasons that lab staffing levels can plummet. Make sure you have plans in place for normal testing and reduced or limited testing in the event of a disaster situation. For more information about the lab strike shortage, click here.

NIOSH Weight Calculator Helpful for Laboratory Ergonomics

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently provided a Lifting Equation, a tool that can be used by occupational health and safety professionals to assess the manual material handling risks associated with lifting and lowering tasks in the workplace. Using the Lifting Equation will provide users with a Recommended Weight Limit (RWL), a parameter which defines the maximum acceptable weight that healthy employees could lift over the course of an 8 hour shift without increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to the lower back. For those who lift heavy objects often in the lab setting, or for safety professionals who wish to gather this information, this tool can be very useful. For information on how to use the tool, click here, and click here to begin using the calculator.


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