Good afternoon friends,
I just wanted to share a little tale, get some feedback and see if I have somewhere lost my mind. How have I come so low that I cannot get management to support the enforcement of a
very old rule - no laboratory gloves may touch common surfaces that bare hands touch, such as doorknobs, and no gloves in the hallways? Staff take breaks and eat in these hallways (they are quite wide with alcoves for tables, chairs and copy machines) and
they believe gloves are acceptable? We are in the public health business!
I put out a safety newsletter for the staff here and wrote an article about gloves in the hallways, the justifications commonly used in support of gloves, and the obvious counters to
those. Prior to publication, through the grapevine management had heard about the safety department clamping down on gloves in the hallways and was upset, so I sent a preview of my article and attended their weekly meeting (that's right - here no safety representative
is invited to management meetings). I was lambasted by excuses and justifications for wearing gloves. Things like, "it sometimes takes too long for people to transfer to a secondary container and decon that for transport, so it's better to make a quick walk
down the hall with gloves." and, "it's more about protecting the sample from the person than the person - the samples are perfectly safe." Of course in the latter scenario those gloved hands are touching doorknobs and that "clean" sample while they claim aseptic
techniques, but I digress.
I suspect for this group the arguments are obvious, so I will not go down that road. Essentially the impression I am getting is that production trumps safety. I tried a different approach
and suggested removing the "break areas" from the hallway and restricting food and drink for adjacent offices - make it all "lab space." Of course that would tank employee morale and here morale trumps safety too apparently.
Of course gloves is only one aspect of this fight. I had initially said PPE, but restricting lab coats caused an even larger firestorm. I come from a background in education (I used
to work for colleges and universities) and I thought public health would be more supportive of safety, but I had an easier time with seasoned PhDs and 18-year-old freshmen than I am having with these public health folks.
You always have to pick your battles and maybe I picked the wrong one. We have gas bottle storage issues, respirator issues, waste issues, etc.. that I am dealing with, but this one
just feels like I ran into a brick wall. Am I off base here? The microbiology labs, chemistry labs, and radiation labs all oppose the glove rule.
I would like some feedback before taking the next steps. The next step is to call Labor and Industries (Washington state OSHA) for a consultation. Washington state, if you are not
familiar, has a wonderful consultation service through our Safety and Health Department that is 100% no fault and separate from the enforcement arm. If they say management is right and these rules aren't necessary then I will move on. If they go the other
way then that will force management's hand...or will it?
So ends my tale - or maybe rant. Thank you for reading and for any experience and knowledge you can offer.
Department of Health
Public Health Lab
1610 NE 150th St.
Shoreline, WA 98155
Phone: (206) 418-5524
Mobile: (206) 418-9580
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