Laboratory is an area of risk for exposure to various hazards e.g. physical, biological infectious substances, radiological, fire, electrical, chemical hazards etc. The laboratory needs to define these hazards and formulate plans to prevent and control these hazards for better personnel safety.

Laboratory coat/gown, gloves, goggles or face shield, masks/respirator, footwear.

Facility design/path of work flow, space, lighting and ventilation, water supply/hand washing sinks, washing solutions and disinfectants, work area surface/ work bench impervious to water, lockable doors/storage spaces, sturdy furniture, Personal protective equipment, Sharp containers/Needle destroyers, Bio-waste bags/bins, Biosafety cabinets, first aid box/spill kits, Post exposure prophylaxis, sterilizing equipment (autoclaves, hot air oven, incinerators), adequate electrical plug points/electrical grounding/MCB (miniature circuit breaker)/GFCI (Ground fault circuit interrupter)etc.

Hand washing, Cleaning and disinfection of laboratory work area/work bench before and after use, Personal Protective Equipment proper usage/removal, restrict access and display hazard signs/safety phrases, clean and clutter free work area, Waste segregation and disposal, Segregation and storage of Chemicals/MSDS (Material safety data sheets), avoid storing food in refrigerators, no eating/drinking/smoking/cosmetics, no mouth pipetting, minimize splashes/aerosols, Immunization against tetanus and hepatitis B, ensure electrical safety/no loose hanging wires/ overloaded plug points/avoid extension cords as permanent wiring and pest control program etc.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains information on the use, storage, handling and hazards of the material (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) .It also gives information on how to work safely with the chemical product what to do if accidents occur, how to recognize symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.
MSDSs are prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the material.

Prepare bleach solution fresh daily and keep it in a closed container because it degrades over time and in contact with the air. Wear gloves. Cover with absorbent material e.g. gauze/cotton, pour 1% sodium hypochlorite or equivalent disinfectant. Leave for 30 minutes Wipe off the soaked absorbent material from the area. Throw the wiped material into appropriate bag for contaminated waste. Finally, wipe the surface with 1% Sodium hypochlorite again.

Extinguishers are available for use on one or more classes of fire, depending on the extinguishing agent they contain (e.g., water, chemicals).
Fire extinguishers are rated as A, B, C or D (or combinations of A, B, C and D) for use against the different classes of fires. Familiarize with the fire class ratings of the extinguishers in work area so that you will know what types of fire can be attempted to be extinguished with them. A dry chemical fire extinguisher is to blanket the fuel with an inert solid (similar to dirt or sand). A dry chemical extinguisher sprays a very fine powder of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3, baking soda), potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3, nearly identical to baking soda), or monoammonium phosphate (NH4) H2PO4). These solids coat the fuel and smother the fire.

When there is a fire in your area, remember RACE/ FIRE

  • Rescue anyone in immediate danger of the fire.
  • Alarm (Shout) or Activate the nearest fire alarm pull station and call emergency number.
  • Confine the fire by closing doors to the fire (do not lock).
  • Evacuate to an area of refuge and extinguish the fire if possible.
  • FIRE:
  • Find people who may be trapped inside.
  • Inform people in the vicinity who can be affected by the fire
  • Restrict the fire by closing the area off
  • E- Evacuate the area and extinguish the fire if possible
  • PASS:

  • PULL... the pin, releasing a locking latch, pressing a puncture lever or other motion
  • AIM... low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle (or it's horn or hose) at the base of the fire
  • SQUEEZE... the handle. This releases the extinguishing agent.
  • SWEEP... from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out.
  • A laboratory safety program is important to protect the lives of employees and patients, to protect laboratory equipment and facilities, and to protect the environment. Adherence to safety requirements is an individual responsibility. The laboratory must take active steps in imparting safety training to all staff, conduct safety awareness programs, and ensure fire safety drills and regular safety audits.

    The following steps are involved in developing and implementing a Laboratory safety program

  • Designating a safety officer
  • Developing a safety manual - Establishing and implementing safety policies and procedures
  • Identifying hazards
  • Assessing levels of risk
  • Prioritizing risk
  • Determine necessary controls and implement control measures
  • Reporting of hazards, documenting non-conforming events and incidents
  • Conducting safety specific trainings
  • Performing safety audits and assessments
  • A good laboratory facility management ensures patient, staff, environment, safety, and compliance with all procedures by enhancing the quality of work, general well-being, and confidence of the personnel by:
    1. Inculcating a culture of safety in all lab processes
    2. Better improved pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical processes
    3. Better separation of incompatible activities and minimal interference
    4. Better communication and collaboration
    5. Easy resource sharing, including equipment, staff, and space
    6. Cost savings
    7. Space optimization for significant activities such as:
    8. Provision of space for staff and patient education
    9. Training and meeting rooms
    10. Flexibility for future expansion

    The laboratory should work with its organization’s facility planning department to develop best processes for laboratory building and renovation project

    The claims for precision, accuracy, linearity, reagent or sample (analyte) carryover limits and Reference interval require verification. The details of these are explained in Labs for Life Quality Control Module (Volume 1)

    Equipment training is very important for optimum functioning, avoidance of breakdown, personnel safety. If the operator maintains the equipment well, all of the above become easy. Moreover, in remote areas where technical support is hard to avail, a well-trained operator can use his/her skills to resolve minor breakdowns with or even without remote support and make authorized part changes if adequate spare parts are stored as per the equipment management policy of the lab. New hands should be given induction training before they are authorized to handle costly equipment. Ongoing training and evaluation for staff operating equipment regularly is also mandatory. A training calendar with aspects of training required and hours per topic should be developed at the beginning of the year and diligently followed through. Equipment Maintenance and management should become part of the competency evaluation records of those technicians using different equipment.

    A substance, preparation, or material used to calibrate or adjust a measurement is called a calibrator. A calibrator has a known value which traceable to the SI unit.

    Calibration is the process of verification by comparing the accuracy of a measuring (test) instrument against a reference standard, within defined limits of accuracy and uncertainties, in order to detect, correlate and eliminate, by adjustment of any discrepancy, the test equipment being calibrated.

    TAny analytical system, be it an equipment or a reagent, will undergo wear and tear/ deterioration over time. These require readjustment to eliminate the inaccuracy created by the deterioration.

    For calibrating tests calibrators are required. These calibrators should have good traceability for the tests to be readjusted using these. Analyte calibration is generally done by the operator as per the lab protocols.

    For equipment calibration, the readjustments are done using calibrated equipment whose accuracy is traceable through an unbroken chain of comparisons to the SI unit. Equipment calibration is usually done by the equipment manufacturer or authorized agencies. In-house calibrations can be done if trained personnel and accurate instruments are available for the same. In India, the calibration agency has to be certified by NABL which accredits the agency to the ISO standard, 17025. NABL 500, Directory of accredited Calibration Laboratories (free download), gives the names of authorized calibration agencies.

    Every analyte calibration should be followed by Quality Controls. After analytical equipment are calibrated also, verification should be done with quality controls. This is called calibration verification. For non-anytical equipment calibration, a certificate showing the calibrating equipment‘s traceability is required. The calibration certificate also should disclose and uncertainty at different operating levels. For more about this read, the equipment management module of Labs for Life

    Troubleshooting is a form of problem solving, often applied to repair failed products or processes. It is a logical, systematic search for the source of a problem in order to solve it, and make the product or process operational again. Troubleshooting tables for several equipment are available in the WHO equipment Maintenance Manual for Lab Equipment (Free download). Most equipment come with flags to point to the possible cause of error to enable easy trouble shooting. These flags need to be understood and remedial mechanisms followed diligently. It must be clarified by the manufacturer/supplier during training as to what instrument flags and alerts should the lab personnel watch out for. Also, it should be clearly known to what extent/step the equipment troubleshooting can be done by the lab personnel and which snags are to be addressed by the manufacturer only. It is a good practice to put up the error flags as Job Aids beside the equipment

    All equipment with an in-built in software generate data. This data is raw data, when it is an outcome of a measurement. The data can also be for equipment usage (user log), error flags, calibration, QC, results of measurements, etc. The format of files cloud be varied- Excel spreadsheet, ASCII, SAS dataset, text file, etc. For more on this, see the Equipment Management Module of Labs for Life

    Audit trail is a record showing who has accessed a computer system and what operations s/he has performed during a particular period. It is useful for maintaining integrity of data, system security and encouragement of personal accountability.

    SOPs for the equipment operation including policies and procedures for maintenance should be defined in appropriate documents. Keeping good equipment records will allow for thorough evaluation of any problems that arise. Each major piece of equipment will have its own equipment maintenance document. Smaller, commonly used equipment such as centrifuges and pipettes may be managed with an equipment maintenance document.

    Specific processes, flags, key operation guidelines should be displayed as bench aids. It is recommended that there be an overall maintenance and calibration chart for all the equipment in the lab showing the last maintenance and calibration dates and the next due be made. Over and above this, a label should be attached to each instrument indicating as a ready reckoner when the last maintenance and calibration was done and when the next maintenance or service should be performed. For more on this, see the Equipment Management Module of Labs for Life

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