Debbie Knight

Photo of the Week

In photo log on October 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

I saw this sign in a research building. Although not specified, I’m pretty sure the sign means gloves worn in the laboratory setting and not wooly winter gloves.

Clearly someone has worn lab gloves in the elevator more than once — enough times to motivate someone to write a message in red capital letters — and bolded, underlined for emphasis.

This is a big no-no in the lab safety world. Lab gloves are not meant to be worn in non-lab (or “common”) areas like hallways, offices, stairwells and elevators.

Why? What’s the big deal?

Well, scientists wear gloves to protect themselves from chemicals and biological reagents in the lab. They also wear them to protect experiments — our skin has many things on it that can contaminate a sensitive assay.

So, here’s a scientist, straight from the lab, touching all sorts of doors and buttons that everyone touches. You see a person wandering around in the hallway or getting on the elevator donned in gloves and you wonder what sorts of lab stuff is on those gloves. Sure the gloves could be “clean,” just put on by the researcher. But only the researcher knows that.

Of course, hallways and elevators aren’t the only problem areas. I’ve seen people wear their lab coat (and gloves) into public restrooms. Not the brightest thing to do. Those researchers risk getting all kinds of bathroom germs on their lab coat (germs that could contaminate their  experiments). But, more importantly, that lab coat also drags possible contaminants (chemical, biological or radioactive) from the lab into the restroom. Now everyone has been unwittingly exposed to lab “stuff.”

As unbelievable as it sounds, a sign had to be posted on the restroom doors on our floor to remind people to check their lab coats, gloves, and masks at the door.

These safety rules are supposedly taught to all lab personnel.

Apparently someone didn’t get the memo.

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  1. Ha, I’ve seen signs like this before. I think it’s safe to say many scientists don’t take lab safety completely seriously. And some do though.

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