Medical laboratories are the first among all known organisations posing the highest risk to environment and community. The higher the waste generated, higher the risk of exposure to toxic material and higher the need for resources in the management of risk-associated work. Anything in excess when not used becomes waste, and all biological material leads to infectious waste. Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, who has assessed over one hundred medical testing labs for NABL, gives a clear picture of how to keep testing labs safe. Dr.Venkatesh, Professor Emeritus, St John’s Medical College, Bangalore, is National Chairman, Indian Society for Lead Awareness and Research.
Medical testing laboratories (MTLs) are the storehouse of all kinds of infected materials as every patient sample is considered as highly infectious and unsafe, where maximum concern for the safety is required. MTLs are the centres across the globe where everyone is directly or indirectly exposed daily to the highest risk unless safety precautions are meticulously followed and practised. The safety related-risk factors are often threatening to life of an individual or community as a whole, which include visiting patients and attendants, equipment and reagent suppliers, maintenance engineers and staff on casual labour, apart from laboratory personnel. Safety in a medical testing laboratory basically involves multi-stakeholders responsibility.
All laboratory materials – mainly the laboratory environment – need to be carefully monitored to ensure safety. For example, the place or a room where highly infectious materials are handled need to have an isolated independent environment with negative pressure maintained with a separate air-handling unit (AHU). Laboratory workers in these many areas, who are often exposed to high concentrations of toxic materials, should be protected round the clock.
The toxicity could be biological chemical or radioactive. Apart from this, electrical and mechanical safety and infrastructural safety aspects also are important. Laboratory location also matters regarding safety to its surroundings, as most of the laboratories in cities are a part of malls and shopping arcades or even housing complexes, especially in developing countries.
A natural disaster often leads to leakage of toxic materials to the environment, posing a threat to surroundings and community in particular. When Ebola virus infection was noticed without any solution for treating, clinics and laboratory personnel and nursing staff were looking like spacemen. Many succumbed to Ebola. This is the scenario with any new strain of infection having no promised treatment.
Various types of safety aspects of toxic material management include:…………………………..
(Read the full part of this article from the August Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine)