The Laboratory Worker


Protective Clothing - Over the years, three kinds of protective clothing came into general use: gowns, front-buttoned white coats and specially designed overalls which afforded protection up to the neck. The latter is probably the best protective clothing available since they are easy to remove, aesthetically pleasing, and afford much better protection than front-buttoned white coats. It is advisable to wear disposable plastic aprons over ordinary protective clothing when working with blood that might be infected. Gloves should be worn when handling all Group 3 agents.

Amenities - Hand basins should be provided in each laboratory, lockers for staff clothing should be available near to but not in laboratory rooms, and rest rooms for eating and drinking be provided near to laboratory rooms.

Health of staff - it is advisable to have some sort of pre-employment medical examination. The form of the examination may include a medical history, physical examination, FBC, clinical chemistry, urinalysis, ECG and chest X-ray. It is desirable to have some sort of medical monitoring for workers in Containment 3 and 4 laboratories. The scope of the monitoring depends on the agent. Women who work with viruses should tell their supervisors as soon as they are pregnant. There should be an individual evaluation of the risks involved in continued employment and it may be necessary for them to change their work. Limited information is available about laboratory exposure to CMV, the ACDP does not mention exclusion from any kind of work but does offer general guidance.

Accidents - There should be a rule in all microbiological laboratories that all accidents causing personal injury involving infectious agents or not should be reported to the supervisor or safety officer. In the UK, there is a statutory requirement for the reporting of all serious accidents to the Health and Safety Executive. Records should be kept of all staff sicknesses, injuries and accidents, and of X-rays and immunization. Accident records are particularly important for legal reasons. It is highly desirable to have a qualified first-aider in the laboratory, but he should receive additional training in dealing with exposure to and ingestion of infectious, toxic, and corrosive chemicals. All staff should know who to contact if an accident occurs. The standard first aid kit for minor injuries should be in a prominent position and well sign-posted. Care should be taken with eye irrigation since the bottles of "sterile" water are frequently contaminated.

Vaccination - in choosing which vaccine to give to the laboratory worker, several considerations should be taken into account, such as (1) the frequency with which the organisms concerned are encountered in the laboratory, (2) the known incidence of infection with those organisms, (3) the severity of the disease they may cause, and (4) who handles them. A large number of vaccines are now available for viruses, which include rubella, mumps, measles, and polio, rabies, Yellow Fever, VEE, TBE, Rift Valley, and Russian spring summer encephalitis.

Minimizing Equipment and Technique-Related Hazards