Due to an increased interest in the subject of simple overlooked safety considerations, a third segment has been added to this series; that of developing an overall consciousness towards personal protection. In this day and age of ‘job’ and ‘work’ mentality, where individuals come to ‘work’, and do a ‘job’, primarily because we all have to have a job to provide basic support for ourselves and to our families. Rent, mortgage, food, healthcare; these are the most basic needs for an adult that ‘must’ be achieved. Employees come to work and literally ‘go through the motions’ every day, to satisfy the need for income. Oftentimes these ‘jobs’ are routine, monotonous, non-challenging, and even non-motivating. Employees become somewhat insensitive to safety ‘risk’. Even worse if the ‘job’ that you have does not mandate strong risk management policies in safety. Many labs, especially some non-clinical lab environments (industrial, university research lab, remote reference lab, etc.), have poor oversight and even less disciplinary action taken against non-policy observant individuals. In many facilities the institution leaves low-end safety practices to the discretion of the employee, so certain grey areas of safety such as protective clothing, gloves, safety goggles, etc.; these decisions are left to the individual practices of the employee.
Much of this is driven by lack of respect for safety facts. Going back to the reference about histology lab personnel and the wearing of lab coats, it was previous mentioned in Pt. 2 of this series that xylene fumes become trapped in ordinary clothing. An alarming number of histology lab personnel wear the general clothing that they came in off the streets with; the same clothing that they wore at home; the same clothing that they return home with; and the same clothing that they wear for the remainder of the day/evening at home. This can be due to a number of reasons:
- Lack of knowledge or information about safety and the Histology lab environment, as in with persons new to Histology
- Indifference due to an ignorance of facts about chemicals and the risk of exposure
- Autonomous, Self, or Defiant mentality – employee has personally decided that they don’t need or agree to the necessity of the safety policy
Most times, the decision to ignore safety is driven by personal convenience or indifference, but not by fact. The fact of the matter is that many histology lab workers do not have factual ‘scientific’ information; they only have personal preference or opinion. In lieu of little to no oversight by management or the institution, the ‘personal’ decision becomes the daily practice. For example, the fact of the matter is, with something as commonly used in histology as xylene, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quotes from their ‘Medical Management Guideline on Xylene’, “Persons whose clothing or skin is contaminated with liquid xylene can cause secondary contamination by direct contact or through off-gassing vapor.” Additionally, it is a known fact, or should be for all Histology lab personnel, that “xylene easily penetrates most ordinary clothing and can become trapped in ordinary boots and gloves.” Xylene trapped in clothing dissolves the skin’s natural protective oils and can lead to skin irritation, dryness, blistering, and progressive skin damage to the person wearing the clothing, and lead to second-hand exposure to others (such as family members) in contact with the individual.
Given that observance of many safety practices has been left to the convenience or decision of the employee, health care facilities must do more about setting and specifically clarifying in-lab safety policy. Managers must do more about providing oversight and enforcement in cases of negligence or out-right defiance to policy. Historically, many companies, industrial as well as health care facilities, do not mandate or even suggest specialized clothing for employees.
Because of this and other safety considerations, many of which will rarely be frequently repeated or earnestly enforced by the workplace, lab personal ‘must become ‘personally’ conscious and pro-active concerning their safety. More importantly, they must be more observant of reducing their personal safety risk, especially with routine duties. First, take personal responsibility and think about your environment. Ask the questions!!! If there are concerns, make inquiries!!! Be conscious of the health risk possibilities. Then, make a personal decision and discipline yourself to use the very best practices in ensuring your safety. Beyond only having a concern for securing a ‘job’ to satisfy the basic need of income, be concerned and committed to securing your safety and take care of the subtle, overlooked, forgotten things. Be the champion of your own personal, protective care.
- Brown, S., “Safety Forgotten Part 1 – Precautionary Practices”, Labstore Highlights, 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control: Xylenes | Medical Management Guidelines | Toxic Substance Portal | ATSDR (cdc.gov); Medical Management Guidelines for Xylene, ATSDR.
- www.cdc.gov., “Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry” (ATSDR).
Kandylala, R., Raghavendra,S., Rajasekharan, S., “Xylene: An Overview of Health Hazards”, JOMFP, Jan. 2010.
- www.bing.com – Safety