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Chemistry Lab Safety and Regulations: Introduction



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Introduction

All clinical laboratory personnel, by the nature of the work they perform, are exposed daily to a variety of real or potential hazards: electric shock, toxic vapors, compressed gases, flammable liquids, radioactive material, corrosive substances, mechanical trauma, poisons, the inherent risks of handling biologic materials, to name a few. Each professional must be "safety conscious" at all times! Laboratory safety necessitates the effective control of all hazards that exist in the clinical laboratory at any time. Safety begins with the recognition of hazards is achieved through the application of common sense, a safety-focused attitude, good personal behavior, good housekeeping in all laboratory work storage areas, , above all, the continual practice of good laboratory technique. In most cases, accidents can be traced directly of two primary causes: unsafe acts (not always recognized by personnel) unsafe environmental conditions. This section discusses laboratory safety as it applies to the clinical laboratory.

Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA)

Public Law 91-596, better known as the Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA), was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1970. The goal of this federal regulation was to provide all employees (clinical laboratory personnel included) with a safe work environment. Under this legislation, the Occupational Safety Health Administration (also known as OSHA) is authorized to conduct on-site inspections to determine whether an employer is complying with the mandatory standards. Safety is no longer only a moral obligation but also a federal law. In about half of the states, this law is administered by individual state agencies rather than by the federal OSHA. These states still fall within delineated OSHA regions, but otherwise they bear all administrative, consultation, enforcement responsibilities. The state regulations must be at least as stringent as the federal ones, many states incorporate large sections of the federal regulations verbatim.



OSHA standards that regulate safety in the laboratory include the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, Formaldehyde Standard, Laboratory Standard, Hazard Communication Standard, Respiratory Standard, Air Contaminants Standard, Personal Protective Equipment Standard. Because laws, codes, ordinances are updated frequently, current reference materials should be reviewed. Assistance can be obtained from local libraries, the Internet, federal, state, local regulatory agencies. The primary standards applicable to clinical laboratory safety are summarized next.

Bloodborne Pathogens

This standard applies to all exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials in any occupational setting.

It defines terminology relevant to such exposures mandates the development of an exposure control plan.

This plan must cover specific preventative measures including exposure evaluation, engineering controls, work practice controls, administrative oversight of the pro gram. Universal precautions personal protective equipment are foremost among these infection control measures. The universal precautions concept is basically an approach to infection control that presumes that all human blood, tissue, most fluids are treated as if known to be infectious for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), other blood borne pathogens. The standard also provides fairly detailed direction for decontamination the safe handling of potentially infectious laboratory supplies equipment, including practices for managing laundry infectious wastes. Employee information training are covered regarding recognition of hazards risk of infection. There is also a requirement for HBV vaccination or formal declination within 10 days of assuming duties that present exposure. In the event of an actual exposure, the standard outlines the procedure for post-exposure medical evaluation, counseling, recommended testing or post-exposure prophylaxis.



Hazard Communication

This subpart to OSHA's Toxic Hazardous Substances regulations is intended to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals used in the workplace have been evaluated that this hazard information is successfully transmitted to employers their employees who use the substances.

Informally referred to as the OSHA "HazCom Standard," it defines hazardous substances provides guidance for evaluating communicating identified hazards. The primary means of communication are through proper labeling, the development use of material safety data sheets (MSDSs), employee education.

Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories

This second subpart to OSHA's Toxic Hazardous Substances regulations is also known as "The OSHA Lab Standard." It was intended to address the shortcomings of the Hazard Communication Standard regarding its application peculiar to the handling of hazardous chemicals in laboratories, whose multiple small-scale manipulations differ from the industrial volumes processes targeted by the original HazCom Standard. The Lab Standard re quires the appointment of a chemical hygiene officer the development of a chemical hygiene plan to reduce or eliminate occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals.

This plan is required to describe the laboratory's methods of identifying controlling physical health hazards presented by chemical manipulations, containment, storage. The chemical hygiene plan must detail engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), safe work practices, administrative controls, including provisions for medical surveillance consultation, when necessary.

Other Regulations Guidelines

There are other federal regulations relating to laboratory safety, such as the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act. In addition, clinical laboratories are required to comply with applicable local state laws, such as fire building codes. The Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI, formerly National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards [NCCLS]) provides excellent general infection control guide lines in their documents GP17-A2 (Clinical Laboratory Safety; Approved Guideline, Second Edition) M29-A3 (Protection of Laboratory Workers from Occupationally Acquired Infections; Approved Guideline, Third Edition), respectively.

Safety is also an important part of the requirements for initial continued accreditation of health care institutions laboratories by voluntary accrediting bodies such as The Joint Commission (TJC) (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations [JCAHO]) the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). TJC publishes a yearly accreditation manual for hospitals Accreditation Manual for Pathology Clinical Laboratory Services, which includes a detailed section on safety requirements. CAP publishes an extensive inspection checklist as part of their Laboratory Accreditation Program, which includes a section dedicated to laboratory safety.

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Updated: Friday, 2012-11-16 23:20 PST