The bloodborne pathogens standard has two classifications for laboratories:
- a clinical laboratory is a workplace where diagnostic or other screening procedures are performed on blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), and
- a research laboratory is a laboratory producing or using research-laboratory-scale amounts of HIV or HBV.
"Clinical (or diagnostic) laboratories" are hospital labs, free-standing clinical or diagnostic labs, labs in dental or medical offices, blood and plasma center labs, dental labs, and
laboratories preparing reagents from human blood or blood components. Laboratories that conduct research using blood or blood components but do not produce or use concentrated amounts of HIV
or HBV, would also be considered a clinical (or diagnostic) laboratory.
"Research laboratories" means a laboratory producing or using research-laboratory scale amounts. Research laboratories may produce high concentrations of HIV or HBV but not in the volume found
in the production facilities. Production facilities may produce high volumes of HIV or HBV, but not high concentrations of the viruses.
Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Safety
Clinical and diagnostic laboratories must follow the general provisions of the bloodborne pathogens standard, including but not limited to, needlestick and sharps safety, engineering controls,
work practice controls, universal precautions, and the use of personal protective equipment.
Additional laboratory safe practices include:
- careful monitoring of work behaviors and habits to prevent exposures
- no mouth pipetting or suctioning of blood or other potentially infectious materials
- no eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, or handling of contact lenses in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of exposure to bloodborne pathogens
- no storage of food or drink in refrigerators, freezers, shelves, cabinets or on countertops or bench tops where bloodborne pathogens or other potentially infectious materials are present
- use splatter guards to prevent exposure
- use sensor or foot/knee/elbow-controlled sinks to operate hand-washing facilities without using hands
- use biological safety cabinets when required
- centrifuge tubes with caps
Research Laboratory Safety
In addition to the general provisions of the bloodborne pathogens standard, research laboratories must also follow additional guidelines established by section 29 CFR 1910.1030(e) of the standard.
- All regulated waste must be either incinerated or decontaminated by a method, such as autoclaving, that is known to effectively destroy bloodborne pathogens.
- Contaminated materials that are to be decontaminated away from the work area must be placed in a durable, leak-proof, labeled or color-coded container that is closed before being removed from
the work area.
- Laboratory doors must be kept closed when work involving HIV or HBV is in progress.
- Access to the work area must be limited to authorized persons.
- Access door to the work area must be self-closing.
- Work areas must be separate from areas that are open to unrestricted traffic within the building.
- The surfaces of doors, walls, floors, and ceilings in the work area must be water resistant so they can be cleaned easily.
Research Laboratory Safety
- When other potentially infectious materials or infected animals are present in the work area, a hazard warning sign with the universal biohazard symbol must be posted on all access doors.
Engineering controls and work practices:
- All activities involving other potentially infectious materials must be conducted in biological safety cabinets; no work with these infectious materials may be conducted on the open bench.
- Each work area shall contain a sink for washing hands and a readily available eye wash facility; the sink shall be foot/knee/elbow or sensor operated and located near the exit door of the work area.
Needlestick or sharps safety:
- Hypodermic needles and syringes shall be used only for parenteral injection and aspiration of fluids from laboratory animals and diaphragm bottles.
- Extreme caution must be used when handling needles and syringes.
- A needle shall not be bent, sheared, replaced in the sheath or guard, or removed from the syringe following use.
- The needle and syringe must be promptly placed in a puncture-resistant container and decontaminated before reuse.
Ben is a medical laboratory technician working in a local hospital. Before each shift, Ben buys a large cup of coffee from the hospital food court. While working, Ben
keeps his cup of coffee on a table in the lab away from his work station.
Is Ben following the bloodborne pathogens standard?
The standard clearly states that drinks cannot be kept in a work area where there is reasonable exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Food and drink must be kept in designated areas completely free of reasonable exposure. One concern OSHA has expressed with keeping drinks in a work area is the potential for contaminating the drink container, potentially resulting in an indirect exposure.