The manager of the microbiology laboratory walked into the monthly staff meeting to discuss safety. Her first announcement was that the one clean hand washing sink in the department was going to be removed. The techs were shocked, and some were angry. Didn’t the manager care about infection prevention and control? Didn’t she know that hand hygiene should always occur after PPE is removed and before leaving the lab? The manager waited for the reactions to subside, then she explained that since the staff treated the lab as a clean area in many instances, that there should be no need for hand washing. The staff went on to argue that they were working with microbiological pathogens, and that they did wear lab coats and gloves, especially when handling specimens and setting them up for cultures. Some of those specimen containers were pretty disgusting, in fact.
That was when the manager dropped the charade. She had no real intention of removing the sink, but she wanted to make a point. She was tired of watching her staff reading culture plates with no gloves. She had spoken about it before, but no one agreed- they had been handling incubated plates for years.
Laboratory-acquired infections occur every year, and some of the easiest
ones to investigate are the cases in which techs are infected with
pathogenic bacteria. It is fairly easy to trace the sources of those
exposures. What is the staff doing in your microbiology laboratory? Are
they doing everything they can to prevent exposure to pathogens? As a
manager or safety professional, are you enforcing the use of PPE when
exposure is possible? Keep your staff from becoming a safety statistic-
provide PPE, teach consequences of unsafe behaviors, and monitor the
continual use of those safe work practices in your lab.
The Gloves Are Off … Or Are They?
What a load of rubbish! I have been working in diagnostic microbiology laboratories for 38 years and always wear gloves when appropriate. It is not appropriate to wear gloves when reading plates, unless in the containment level 3 laboratory. We read the plates and input results directly into the computer system - wearing gloves is not an option. Plus if one person wears gloves using the computer, and contaminated it inadvertently, another person could use it without gloves and in theory they would be more at risk. I hate to see people wearing gloves in the laboratory touching doors and answering the telephone. Even wearing gloves using the microscope is a no-no for me, as a person wearing them is more likely to contaminate it, leaving a person following at risk. This is typical of an article written by a manager, rather than a hands on microbiologist.
I must say I agree with Jeff. Frequent use of hand disinfectant and and working in an aseptic manner, taking care not to touch clean surfaces with contaminated hands (or gloves for that matter) is, in my opinion, the most important thing. This, of course, excludes for example pathogens that require higher BSL and pathogens which are not killed or permanently deactivated by ethanol.
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