Laboratory Safety Nightmare!
Dear HistoNet Colleagues,
Ten weeks ago, I inherited the supervisory position for a histology lab
at a very large animal hospital. Eager to run the lab in a safe and legally
compliant manner, I signed up for and attended the "Specializing in
Laboratory Safety" Workshop #19 at the NSH Symposium in Milwaukee. Since
then, I have been researching safety protocols and regulations from the
resources I learned of there.
The lab is in critical condition. We have no fume hood and have been
using formalin, acetone, xylene, uranium nitrate, ammonium hydroxide,
concentrated acids, hydroquinone, picric acid, and whatever else we use for
routine samples and special stains without a fume hood. I wear a respirator
mask when using some of the nastier chemicals. Despite this precaution, I
developed a marked respiratory sensitivity to D-Limonene and was forced to
quickly eliminate it from the lab. Our processor, 55-gallon waste drum, and
special staining area are all completely unventilated. Our stainer has a
basically non-functioning charcoal filtration "hood" over it and we have a
small Shandon charcoal filtered work station hood for coverslipping. The
slide flats do not even fit entirely in this coverslipping hood, so there is
inevitable continuous exposure to the clearing agent during coverslipping,
despite the fact that the hood functions well.
I am also reasonably certain that we are in violation of fire codes. We
do have an acceptable flammable chemical storage cabinet, but I suspect that
the quantities we store in there, particularly in addition to our waste drum,
exceed the acceptable fire code limitations when considering the square
footage of the lab.
I gave a safety tour of the lab to my colleagues and the truly wonderful
news is that, now that they are all aware of the hazards, the manager of the
pathology labs and all of the pathologists are very supportive and equally
eager to create a safe lab environment. We have a safety officer on site,
who quickly rounded up dozens of MSDSs for me, but I believe that the scope
of this issue may be well beyond any of her previous experiences.
What I am hoping for is advice on how to find documentation of OSHA
regulations or any other documents of legally mandated safety standards. I
am overwhelmed by the task of sifting through the information on the OSHA
website and other resources, and I do not have the time I need to accomplish
an adequate job of performing safety research in addition to my usual
histology and managerial duties. In order to strengthen our case for the
substantial funding we will need to install proper building and laboratory
ventilation, proper chemical storage, and quite a few other safety measures,
I would like to furnish the administration with specific laws or regulations
requiring us to take these measures. If we can prove that we are legally
required to meet certain standards, we have a much better chance of obtaining
the necessary funds.
Thank you in advance for all of your help in this vital matter!
Very truly yours,
Kimberly Atkin HT (ASCP)
Histology Laboratory Supervisor
Angell Memorial Animal Hospital
350 South Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02130
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