OSHA Lab Safety Standards Strive to Protect Workers

A number of new diseases have made their way to the U.S. in recent years, including Zika and Ebola. That puts laboratory workers on the front lines of important diagnostics, testing, research and treatment. But it has also put them at higher risk of a work-related injury.laboratory

OSHA estimates there are approximately 500,000 laboratory workers in the U.S., and considerations of how they can stay safe in a difficult working environment must be prioritized.

Lab workers face a myriad of potential dangers that may result in workers’ compensation claims, including chemical and biological risks, but also musculoskeletal injuries, such as those caused by constant, repetitive movements.

OSHA’s Laboratory standards, codified in 29 CFR 1910.1450, outline approaches to radioactive and biological threats, but also offer a broader, more holistic approach to lab worker safety.

Those who work in the lab industry say that the introduction of this safety standard has resulted in more accountability and awareness of potential work-related dangers. There have been a number of training and safety programs developed that deal with the handling of chemicals and the training of lab workers.

The entire length of Appendix A of those standards spells out the special techniques of local, state and federal guidelines for handling chemical and physical hazards.

Recently, an industry conference held in Maryland outlined a number of the safety issues lab workers continue to face. One of the big topics of discussion was the failure of many labs to take into account the safety and location of eyewash stations. Many of these facilities were too close to lab operations and a fair number didn’t have a proper drainage system. There were also concerns about electrical dangers in these areas.

OSHA’s Laboratory Safety Guidance deals with a host of issues, including:

  • Blood-borne pathogens
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Hand protection standard
  • Eye and face protection standards
  • Respiratory protection standards

Laboratory employers have to give workers information and training that is relevant to the hazards they will face day-in-and-day-out in their line of work. This training, per OSHA, is supposed to be given at the time their assignment starts and also prior to any assignments that involve new exposure situations.

Workers need to know where to find the full content of the federal regulatory standards for laboratory practices and also be informed of the exposure limits to certain chemicals and other hazards. They also need to be made aware of how to monitor exposures and measure when safe levels have been exceeded.

Lab workers with latex allergies have to be especially careful, and labs need to provide proper accommodations in these situations.

At the same time, labs have to provide adequate protection from some of the serious biological hazards lab workers encounter, which have included:

  • Anthrax
  • Avian Flu
  • Plague
  • Ricin
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Smallpox
  • Botulism
  • Hantavirus
  • Legionnaires’ disease
  • Foodborne disease
  • Tularemia
  • Viral Hemorrhagic Fever
  • Pandemic Influenza

Proper labeling of containers and appropriate methods for handling and decontamination are essential. This is also true of laboratories that handle research animals, in which workers may be exposed to scratches, bites, fluids or infected tissue.

And then of course there are ergonomic hazards, caused by the kind of repetitive motion injuries that occur during routine lab work, such as working with microscopes, pipetting, using keyboards and operating microtomes.

Lab workers who suffer a work-related injury should contact a Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer to learn more about the legal options available.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Taking a Holistic Approach to Lab Safety, Aug. 1, 2016, By Matt Holden, OSHONLINE.com

More Blog Entries:

Workers’ Compensation for Icy Slip-and-Fall, July 30, 2016, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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