Re: Clothing etiquette for the bench tech.

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From:Lee & Peggy Wenk <>
To:"Garza-Williams, Sara (by way of Histonet)" <>
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OK - I'll wander into the fray . . .

Concerning not wearing lab coats in the microtome areas . . .

This one is probably a gray area.

If you can swear/prove that ALL your tissue is
100% completely fixed and properly processed, then
you probably don't need gowns for either biohazardous
or chemical protection.

But, are ALL your tissues ALWAYS FULLY FIXED? Or 
are some of them placed on the processor late and/or
grossed "thick enough to put on a Ritz cracker"?
Are some still raw or ooze out of the block when
you section into the block?

Then they may NOT be completely fixed, which means they
may still be biohazardous/infectious. MAY. So wearing 
a fluid resistant lab coat or apron for biohazardous 
reasons may be justified. Think about the sections that 
go flying around and stick to your bare arms. Do you
really want raw, possibly infectious tissue on your skin?

So wearing a barrier such as a fluid "resistant"
lab coat with sleeves may be a good idea. Buttoned,
of course.

However, the problem may be that the tissue is fully
fixed, but NOT COMPLETELY PROCESSED (xylene or
alcohol still in the tissue). Then the tissue may no 
longer be biohazardous, but now we have a chemical 
exposure problem. See next section for comments
concerning gowns (I don't think eye goggles are
needed in this case, since there are no potentials
for splashes.)

Concerning not wearing lab coats in the staining
area . . . 

This is now a chemical hygiene situation, not
a biohazardous situation. And YES, lab coats or an
apron or some sort of fluid barrier must be worn. 
MUST. Along with eye protection and glove
protection (nitrile, which is more chemical resistant
than latex or vinyl, which are OK only for protection
against biohazards not chemicals). Chemical PPE is
a federal requirement. So your infectious control
people were correct, you don't need to wear the PPE
in the staining area, since there are no biohazardous
agents. However, you DO need to wear the PPE due to
chemical hazards, which they as biohazardous control
officers wouldn't comment on the chemical hazards
(specialization, you know.)

In BOTH cases (biohazard or chemical), the protection 
MUST be fluid resistant. (Be aware that no protection 
resist fluids forever.)

So the standard white cloth lab coat, or the colorful
cloth scrubs will NOT meet this requirement. Disposable 
fluid "resistant" gowns or aprons can be purchased by
the lab (as the law states that the employer must
provide the PEE) and must be worn in the lab (which the
lab must enforce, so says the federal regulations). 
No, you don't have to use a new gown every day. 
Change it when it gets too dirty to wear.

(So the "badge of honor" of a well stained white
cloth lab coat to show how busy you have been, 
should not longer be seen around the labs.)

And these fluid "resistant" gowns should be kept
in the lab, and not worn to the cafeteria, gift
shop, etc. If there are paraffin sections sticking
to the coat, then you will be "shedding" them as
you walk around the hospital. There goes containment
of potentially biohazardous materials. If there
are chemical spills on the lab coat, you will be
"outgassing", so there goes containment of

As to what your hospital or lab wants you to
wear around the lab under the gowns, or around
the rest of the hospital is up to your hospital 
or lab. Scrubs, jeans/no jeans, white lab coats, 
etc. So if jeans are not against the policy of 
your hospital/lab, then you can wear them. You 
just need to cover them up when you are in the lab.

"Looking professional" is up to the hospital,
lab, and to a certain extent, the person.

If you really need the chapter and verse of
the federal regulations concerning chemical
PPE, I probably could find it at work. But
it will be a while, as I'm in the middle of
tons of paperwork with a deadline. Maybe
someone else has it handier than I do.
Please, someone, anyone?

Concerning biohazardous slides . . .

Nope. I would say the little bugs can't
make their way out of the coverslip. I'm
pretty sure glass or the tapes are a great
barrier to microorganisms. I don't know of 
any regulation about wearing gloves or gowns 
to read slides. (Maybe a frozen section
slide, but that's another long essay).

Hope this is of some help.

Peggy A. Wenk, HTL(ASCP)
William Beaumont Hospital
Royal Oak, MI 48073

"Garza-Williams, Sara (by way of Histonet)" wrote:
> Please, please I need the your help regarding my argument to a CAP
> inspector (lab general).
> She gave me a huge "Ding" regarding the fact that our techs were not
> wearing lab coats(in the cutting and staining area), they do wear gloves.
> She also justified her point by indicating because the techs were wearing
> jeans it was "unprofessional".  Of course, I could hardly contain myself
> and had try very hard to control myself from stating what I really wanted
> to say...
> .

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