The following is a guest blog by Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, a Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a multi-hospital system in the Tidewater region of Virginia.
As I was getting ready to head to New York City for a quick vacation, I was at the train platform wondering if I was in the right place. There were no clear signs. There wasn’t anybody around to answer questions. When the first train came in, it was a commuter train, not the long distance one I needed to be on. When the second went by, it was on track 3, on the other side of the tracks next to where I was standing. By the time the third (and correct) train arrived, I was a nervous wreck. While I admit part of that has to do simply with my personality, I believe much of the anxiety could have been resolved with proper signage.
That applies to the laboratory as well. Not only is it anxiety-reducing, but certain signage for laboratory safety is required. We know the CAP requires signage for chemical labels, signs indicating the location of eyewash stations, and explicit instructions for spill clean-up and emergency treatment of employees should an accident or exposure occur. This specific safety information is meant to be clearly posted in the laboratory to circumvent any confusion, especially during a safety incident. Imagine being a new employee and having to lead a co-worker to an emergency eyewash station. Or worse- imagine you were splashed in the eyes with formaldehyde and your co-worker does not know what steps to take to help you. That is a bad time to be confused or unclear. Safety training to handle such occurrences is important, but instructions and signage will help in an emergency as well.
There are other lab safety signs that should be considered. Laboratories use chemical and biohazard spill kits with supplies to help clean up in the event of a spill. Don’t assume all staff knows where these spill supplies are kept. Post large signs designating the locations of each of the types of spill kits you may have in your lab.
When it comes to personalities, it is generally accepted that laboratory technologists prefer clear instructions and direction. Labs tend to write and utilize more policies and procedures than most other hospital departments. If you are a lab safety professional, you have policies and procedures you are managing, but don’t forget to manage the other communication pieces of lab safety. Keep your lab free from confusion during every day work, and especially during times of crisis.