Laboratory safety is a critical and vital component to guarantee the success of a clinical facility. Biosafety procedures are impacted by electrical, fire, radiological, chemical, and biological hazards.

The greatest threat to lab safety includes a lack of or improper use of PPE and the disregard for safety protocols. With the breakout of coronavirus, many laboratories are working around the clock to find a vaccine. Here are the five steps laboratories take to stay safe as they search for a vaccine.

1. General Guidance

All laboratories perform the activity- and site-specific assessments of risks to determine what safety measures they can put in place for their unique circumstances. Additionally, they have come up with local procedures and policies to ensure the safety of the employees. It is on top of federal and public health regulations that have been put in place.

All sick employees should seek medical attention as soon as possible, and after being attended to, they should stay at home (or get admitted) until they recover fully.

2. Social Distancing

Social distancing is one of the best ways to control the spread of viruses like COVID-19. It would be best if you took measures to ensure your laboratory is not overcrowded, and that the distance between one researcher and another is at least six feet (2 meters). You can achieve this by adding more shifts and adjusting their work schedules. You can try as much as possible to work with non-overlapping teams to ensure personal contacts are kept at a minimum.

Encourage laboratory activities and tasks that don’t require face-to-face interaction. For example, you can reduce staff meetings and encourage your employees to use collaboration tools if they have to work as a team. For a staff meeting, you can opt for phone and video conferencing. Reconfigure workspaces to create one-directional workflows and paths. You can also place barriers between equipment, desks, and computer workstations.

3. Use of Face Coverings

Viruses are airborne. That’s why the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people to wear face masks. While working in the lab, there are certain circumstances in which maintaining social distancing can be challenging. When two or more researchers must work closely together, the only way out is to wear face coverings.

Face coverings can protect healthy people from getting the virus from those already infected. Any facial cover that a laboratory worker wears to protect himself from infectious materials inside the lab should be worn before the worker enters the lab. It is necessary to wash hands before wearing face coverings and to avoid touching them while in use. After using them, they should be removed carefully and disposed of or washed thoroughly with a disinfectant if they are re-usable.

4. Disinfection and Personal Hygiene

Since laboratory workers deal with highly infectious materials, it is recommended that measures be put in place to ensure the working environment is clean.

Disinfection should be given priority, especially of high-touch equipment and locations. The surfaces of tables, benches, and chairs should be cleaned and disinfected after use. To ensure good air quality, have vacuum pumps with filters installed in the lab.

Use posters displayed at critical places in the lab to remind the workers of the importance of personal hygiene and to encourage them to wash their hands regularly. They should be reminded to wash their hands with running water and soap for not less than 20 seconds. In case soap is not available, they can use hand sanitizer (alcohol-based) to disinfect their hands.

5. Special Room for Specimen Reception

Have a specimen reception room far away from the offices and treat this area as a highly infected area. The surfaces and floors of such a room need to be leak-proof and conform to the disinfection protocols. Only authorized personnel should have access to this room, and they should be in the PPE before they can be allowed in.

The fact that a vaccine hasn’t been found should be enough to emphasize the need for being extra careful in the lab. It is a matter of life and death, so no chances should be taken. The best way is to treat the lab and everything in it as if they are already infected.

Author's Bio: 

Katie earned a BA in English from WWU and loves to write. She also adores hiking in redwood forests and photography. She feels happiest around a campfire surrounded by friends and family.