Spotlight on Safety: New Hands-on Course Aims to Reduce Lab Accidents

Post written by guest blogger Diana Masselle from the NIH Division of Occupational Health and Safety

Science can be a dangerous job, no matter where you work.  At the NIH alone, there are hundreds of preventable injuries each year and researchers have the most injuries.  I wanted to lower the rate of research-related injuries so I developed a hands-on lab safety course, “Lab Safety Refresher- LIVE.” (If you can come up with an acronym for “LIVE”- leave it in the comment section and we will announce the best in a later post).  Many researchers have the attitude that “it won’t happen to me”.  Regardless of where you work or how good of a researcher you are it can and possibly will happen to you.  You can greatly reduce your risk of injury or lab acquired infection by being aware of the hazards around you. The Lab Safety Refresher-LIVE course will help you to recognize hazards in your workplace and the behaviors that can lead you towards an accident.  NIH trainees can sign up for the course at: https://www.safetytraining.nih.gov. (For NIH Fellows Only)

If you are a trainee here at the NIH, please join me for a class either next week or in the near future.  If you are at another institution, touch base with your lab safety specialist about stay up to date with your safety training.  If you like the idea of the hands-on lab safety course, work with your safety department on developing the course at your institution.  It is a great way to become a safety expert and gain valuable experience creating curriculum

There are a few things that you should know about safety training.  First, you are required to take it by law.  Postbacs, grad students, postdocs, clinical fellows, etc all fall under OSHA regulations, regardless of what research institution you work for.  Therefore, there are trainings that your employer is required to provide to you on an annual basis; including, but not limited to, hazard communications, chemical hygiene and bloodborne pathogens training.  Many people ask why they need to take bloodborne pathogen training.  If you work with human blood or body fluids, non-human primate blood, bacteria and most viruses, you must take bloodborne pathogens training annually.  At the NIH we provide training to meet these requirements through “Laboratory Safety at the NIH” and “Working Safely with HIV and Other Bloodborne Pathogens for Non-Hospital Personnel.”  Your institution may provide this training in a different format.  Another component of your training needs to be provided by your direct supervisor and must include documented procedure specific safety training.

As a research trainee, you are in a very unique position where you are learning constantly.  Consider safety to be another skill you need to learn and perfect.  Regardless of what your career goals are, being safe in the workplace is an important skill to have.

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