Here, we have listed some of the less-official safety policies throughout modern laboratories. You won’t find these in employee handbooks or manuals, but that doesn’t lessen their importance. In fact, many lab administrators enforce these on a regular basis. In this post, we’ll explore and discuss these unspoken and unofficial safety policies.

Every lab worker knows the importance of safety. No matter which industry or science, keeping employees safe is always at the forefront of every lab. Many labs handle dangerous substances or study hazardous materials. Very often, the instruments workers use can even be dangerous. Therefore, lab safety is very intricate, and very important.

At SEPS, we’ve served labs across the Tri-State Area for decades. Our accreditations and affiliations are a testament to our enduring passion for lab safety. Lab equipment maintenance, repairs and cleanliness are all topics we’re very familiar with.

1. Never Chew Gum In The Lab!

At first, you might consider this an obvious rule. However, you’d be surprised at just how unofficial it is. It seems like a no-brainer, but we’re confident you won’t find this rule written down in 99% of labs. While OSHA rules prohibit “eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm,” they don’t mention gum.

Additionally, this rule includes more than just gum. Whereas gum isn’t mentioned in official lab safety policies, neither are cough drops, hard candy or chewing tobacco. Therefore, many employees assume they’re perfectly safe. However, they’re gravely mistaken.

You might be thinking that chewing gum or eating candy isn’t hazardous at all. But you’d be wrong. Gum and candy encourage hand-to-face contact, which can be very dangerous in a lab setting. And in biosafety labs, this can lead to the ingestion of lethal pathogens. Generally, lab employees should do all they can to keep their hands away from their faces. And gum-chewing, candy-eating employees will be unconsciously touching their faces (and mouths) frequently.

2. Never Wear Mesh Shoes

There are OSHA policies which describe the kind of footwear lab employees should wear. They state that personnel’s shoes should “be comfortable and cover the entire foot, including the instep and the heel.” However, they don’t quite specify how impervious (or otherwise) the shoes should be.

Mesh or canvas shoes, or any shoe made with an absorbent material, should never be in the lab. Because employees must often collect and handle chemicals, fluids and dangerous solutions, their footwear must repel liquids. Ideally, leather or water-resistant, synthetic materials will work for lab personnel and prevent contamination.  These materials won’t absorb any falling liquids. Therefore, they’ll mitigate the risk of skin absorbing hazardous chemicals and other fluids.

3. Monitor PPE Use

Now that COVID-19 is such a prominent issue, the question of PPE (personal protective equipment) use is more prevalent than ever. Specifically, more and more lab employees are wondering just how long they can safely wear their PPE. Basically, the answers vary depending on the PPE in question.

For example: gloves are one of the most essential ways to keep workers safe. They serve as a very effective barrier between people and germs. However, did you know that gloves lose their efficiency after about two hours? Therefore, nobody should wear gloves any longer than that. And if they’re visibly soiled, you should dispose of them sooner.

In addition, lab coats can be safely worn for about a week. However, if employees spill something on them, then obviously they should remove and wash them right away. When it comes to lab coats, use your better judgement to determine their safe use. If the work load is heavy and you’re handling many different fluids with a great potential for cross-contamination, you should change coats frequently. And finally, face shields should be sterilized with an alcohol-based disinfectant on a daily basis.

Conclusion – S.E.P.S.

Nowadays, with COVID-19 being such a prominent issue, lab safety (both official and unofficial) is more important than ever. At SEPS, we maintain a passionate commitment to keeping labs safe, clean and sanitary, no matter what.