It’s been over 35 years since the movie Marathon Man came out and I still have a fear of dentists. That imagery has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of this blog, but the title reference was too good to pass up…
Everybody who works in a research lab no doubt has had to go through a mandatory lab safety course or certification. Companies provide such training both to ensure the safety of their employees and processes as well as to avoid future litigation should an accident occur. What is not always as clear is how to ensure the safety of visitors, or in the case of instrument support, Beyond providing lab coats and safety goggles, there are a couple of basic precautions that can be taken to ensure the well being of visitors and support techs;
1) Contact Person – all visitors should have the phone and email info for an employee who has been through a company approved safety training program. Visitors should be required to seek out this person for any concerns they have prior to conducting their work, or in the event of an emergency. Also, make sure you have the techs emergency contact (work and personal) info in the event that person requires medical attention.
2) Disclosure – Make sure you inform the tech of any biological or chemical hazards regarding the instruments. Point out instrument decontamination certificates and give direction on how to dispose of wastes (chem wipes, q-tips, wear items, gloves, lab coats). Also let them know your protocols for dealing with reagent spills or exposure.
3) Evacuation Instructions – Let the tech know how to exit the building in the event of an emergency. In addition to typical lab accidents, in today’s world that could also include fire alarms, terrorist attacks, workplace violence). Point out any per-determined ‘rally point’ once out of the building. Also, let them know how to re-enter the building or sign out if they do not return so they can be accounted for.
4) Facilities Support – Never let a visiting tech hard wire equipment to your facilities electrical junction boxes. If such a need arises, have your own knowledgeable facility personnel on hand to disconnect power and supervise all work. Same goes for plumbing high pressure air lines or water lines.
5) Basic Safety Training – make sure the tech has received basic lab safety training from their employer. Ask in advance for them to bring a certificate of such training, specific to the visiting tech.
With a little bit of extra consideration, it is easy to ensure the safety of lab visitors. And, it your service tech looks even remotely like Sir Laurence Oliver in the photo above, don’t be surprised if he or she incessantly asks, “Is is safe yet?”