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Fomites in Your Labs?

Does your facility have an established policy that clearly specifies if lab workers are permitted to bring cell phones, earbuds, and other personal items into the lab while conducting work?

Many people are constantly connected to their cell phones these days. It can be hard to leave your cell phone behind, and even harder to convince others to do so, but it may be necessary when working in labs with infectious or potentially infectious materials. Listening to music helps many people spend long days at the bench, but have you considered what the earbuds come in contact with in the lab? Put aside the distraction factor of having a cell phone in a lab or listening to music for the sake of this post. Just consider the hazards that a cell phone placed on the bench in you lab space may encounter. If a researcher is listening to music with earbuds and needs to adjust their earpiece with a gloved hand, what hazards exist?

Allowing lab workers to bring personal items such as cell phones and earbuds into labs should be carefully reviewed. These personal items have the capability of becoming fomites. Lab equipment and other lab supplies are decontaminated if they need to be removed from the lab, but personal items are not. If you have an established safety committee, this would be an excellent topic to discuss during your next meeting if you do not already have a policy in place. If there is no established policy, it is inevitable that cell phones will be brought into the lab.

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