Insights

Airflow in the Laboratory

General airflow through the laboratory space is a design element that safety is often asked to comment on.  With the growing awareness of energy conservation for both sustainability efforts and costs savings, labs are being asked “how low can you go” when it comes to air changes per hour (ACH).  The general heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) controls for the laboratory space can often be manipulated for efficient air supply that provides both occupant comfort and some degree of safety.  When determining what the proper air flow should be, several factors must be considered in conjunction with ACH.

In offices, a percentage of the air supplied to the space can be recirculated from the same space, which saves on heating and cooling costs.  All laboratory air is single pass, which means that it is 100% supplied fresh air from the outside.  This is good news for lab occupants, as the air circulating in the space is all fresh, but not good news for […]

Massachusetts Safety Standards for Laboratories During the COVID-19 Reopening Period

On Monday Governor Baker announced the State’s Plan to safely reopen the Massachusetts economy, while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. The guidance includes mandatory sector-specific standards and recommended best practices for sectors that are eligible to open in Phase 1, including laboratories that were not already considered essential. The Safety Standards for Laboratories are applicable to all laboratories (essential and non-essential) and are organized around four categories: social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting.

Social Distancing

Social distancing requirements include ensuring separation of six feet or more between individuals, unless this distance is unsafe due to the nature of the work or configuration of the workspace. This may require closing or reconfiguring worker common and high-density areas such as eating areas, and redesigning workstations including the use of physical partitions (must be taller than a standing worker). In addition, designated work areas must be assigned to limit movement throughout […]

Are Workplace-Related COVID-19 Cases Recordable and Reportable?

On April 10, 2020, OSHA published interim guidance regarding the enforcement of employers’ obligation to record and report employees’ COVID-19 cases.

The OSHA guidance recognizes that determining whether an employee contracted COVID-19 at work will often be difficult, and because of this, relaxed COVID-19-related recordkeeping obligations for many employers.

However, for employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, law enforcement services), and correctional institutions, COVID-19 is a recordable illness.

These employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if:

  • The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by theCDC
  • The case is work-related as defined by the OSHA standard on recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses 29 CFR 1904.5 and
  • The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

For other employers, including […]

SARS-CoV-2: Determining Your Employees’ Exposure Risk Level

OSHA recently issued a guidance document on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 that focuses on determining employees’ risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in order to identify the appropriate control measures that can be put in place to protect employees from exposure.

OSHA has divided job tasks into four risk exposure levels:

Very high exposure risk

Jobs with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures. Workers in this category include healthcare workers (e.g., doctors, nurses, EMTs) performing aerosol generating procedures (e.g., intubation, cough induction procedures, invasive specimen collection); healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected COVID-19 patients; and morgue workers performing autopsies on people known or suspected of having COVID-19.

 High exposure risk

Jobs with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Workers in this category include healthcare and support staff (e.g., doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who […]

Risk Assessments: The Key to Working Safely with COVID-19 Positive Samples

We have been getting many questions from clients on appropriate precautions to take when working with COVID-19 positive samples in the lab. The World Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA)  have all published extremely informative guidance on this topic:

WHO: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Technical Guidance: Laboratory Testing for 2019-nCoV in Humans

CDC: Information for Laboratories

PHAC: SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2)

ABSA: COVID-19 Toolbox

The information is consistent among these agencies and all stress the importance of starting with a risk assessment. This includes a site and protocol-specific assessment of the procedures to be performed, the identification of the hazards of the processes and procedures, an evaluation of the laboratory facility and equipment, as well as an assessment of available resources including personal protective equipment (PPE).

Coronaviruses generally infect the upper or lower respiratory tract, therefore work with respiratory specimens poses the highest risk. […]

New Watertown Regulation: Biotechnology and the Use of Recombinant DNA Molecule Technology

Watertown announced yesterday that due to the COVID-19 emergency they will be ​postponing the effective date of their new regulation (Biotechnology and the Use of Recombinant DNA Molecule Technology) from May 1 until July 1, 2020. Existing facilities located in Watertown​ will have one year from the effective date to come into compliance.

Overall, the new regulation is similar to other cities and towns in the area. One difference is that Watertown will be regulating non-recombinant DNA (rDNA) research involving biologic agents at Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) and Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3). (BSL-4 work is prohibited in Watertown.) Examples of agents at BSL-2 include non-recombinant work with Salmonella entericaStaphylococcus aureus, Hepatitis B, and Herpes Simplex Virus. BSL-2 agents can also include toxins of biological origin requiring BSL-2.  In comparison, Cambridge, Lexington, and Boston only regulate biologic agents at BSL-3.

The Watertown regulations do not apply to finished products which contain rDNA molecules and which have been approved by other government regulatory […]

To Mask or Not to Mask….That is the Question!

There is a lot of talk lately on the news and social media about the use of masks for helping to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections.

Current guidance continues to encourage everyone to stay home and avoid public outings. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth face covering whenever it is necessary to go out in public, such as to the grocery store. The reasoning behind this recommendation is that people can transmit the virus to those around them through respiratory droplets, without knowing they are sick. It has been shown that carriers can transmit the disease either before they exhibit symptoms, or they may never show any symptoms at all.

With all the talk about mask shortages for healthcare workers and the current CDC guidance, how can you choose the right face covering for you? First it is important to understand there are different types of masks that serve different purposes. Here […]

April 7th, 2020|Categories: Insights|

Hazard and Risk Analysis

The terms risk and hazard are used often in the safety world, many times interchangeably. They have very different meanings, however, and when using these terms, care should be taken to use them appropriately. When evaluating a process or procedure, assigning these terms appropriately can help simplify the safety assessment process.

What is a hazard?

A hazard refers to a potential source of harm. Examples can include chemical, biological, radiological, and physical hazards. Toxic chemicals, infectious biologics, and moving mechanical parts are all different types of hazards. The hazard level of a particular item or condition is static, meaning it does not vary. However, it can be evaluated relative to other hazards. Simply put, a hazard is a material or condition that can have an adverse effect on a person’s health or physical property.

What is risk?

Risk is the potential for interaction with a hazard. Generally speaking, risk is referenced in relative […]

Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Prevent Blindness has deemed March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. This non-profit organization is currently promoting awareness about the dangers of blue light exposure from computers, televisions, and device screens including smart phones and tablet screens. Recent studies suggest that long-term exposure to the blue light emitted from these screens can cause digital eye strain with eye fatigue and dry eyes that can in some cases lead to eye problems like macular degeneration from damage to the cornea.

The largest source of blue light is sunlight. However, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them, both during the workday and after.

So what can you do to protect your eyes from blue light?

  1. Screen time: Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of screens and/or take frequent […]

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month

Prevent Blindness, the nation’s first eye health and vision care nonprofit organization, has deemed March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. Did you know that thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries? According to the CDC, each day about 2,000 U.S. employees sustain a work-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments, and more than 100 of these injuries result in one or more days away from work.

How do eye injuries happen to workers? The majority of eye injuries result from small foreign objects or flying particles getting in the eye. Large objects may also strike the eye or a worker may run into an object causing blunt-force eye trauma. Many eye injuries are also caused by chemical burns from chemicals such as acids and caustics as well as workplace cleaning products.

The encouraging news is that approximately 90% of eye injuries that occur in the workplace are […]