Laboratories are places where visitor access regulation becomes essential for the following reasons:
- Prevention of outside contamination from visitors or their belongings
- Presence of dangerous materials, corrosive and poisonous chemicals, radioactive radiations or biological micro-organisms in laboratories which can prove harmful to visitors
- Visitors can cause distraction to laboratory workers which can result in errors in test procedures due to carelessness
- Prevention of access to restricted information or laboratory procedures and practices
However, at times restrictions need to be relaxed for certain groups of visitors which can include cleaners and housekeeping staff, service and maintenance engineers, inspectors from government or regulatory bodies, trainees and apprentices, etc. Reference is drawn to earlier articles ‘Suggested practices to keep your laboratory contamination free’ and ‘ Suggestions for regulation of visitor entry inside laboratories’. The present article offers recommendations that can be adopted to regulate visitor as well as laboratory worker entry and exit procedures.
- Laboratory staff should always carry their identification which should be worn all the time inside the laboratory premises
- The staff should head straight to change room for change to laboratory dress which includes laboratory coat, gloves, shoe and head covers to prevent outside contamination and for protection from hazardous materials inside the laboratory.
- Workers entering radiation sensitive areas should wear radiation protective gowns and radiation monitoring badges.
- Laboratory workers should be allotted lockers for safe custody of their personal belongings such as mobile phones, lunch boxes, helmets, handbags, etc.
- Laboratory workers should remove lab coats, footwear and caps before using washroom or canteen facilities and wear them again on return to the laboratory
- On leaving the laboratory at the end of the day the laboratory security should ensure that items such as test samples, laboratory records and other sensitive information are not taken out of laboratory premises
- Security at main gates should ascertain the identity of visitors, purpose of visit, contact person details before granting entry permission
- Security personnel should keep record of tools and other items being carried by maintenance and service engineers which should be verified again at time of exit so that no laboratory item is taken out
- Visitors should be granted permission to proceed to visitor area only or to the concerned section depending on the purpose of their visit and after confirmation with the contact person
- Visitors granted permission to laboratory sections should proceed first to change room where laboratory uniform and safety items should be issued to them on returnable basis
- Visitor badges issued by security should be worn by visitors throughout their stay inside the laboratory premises
- Inside the laboratory premises visitors should be advised to conduct themselves like laboratory employees and follow the prescribed regulations
- At time of exit the visitors should return their laboratory wear including visitor badges to the change room in- charge
- Mobile phones or any other personal belongings deposited at time of entry should be taken back in the change room
- Before visitors move out of exit gate the security should inspect their belongings so that no laboratory items are removed without authorization and any sensitive documents are also not taken out
Laboratory entry and exit guidelines may appear to cause inconvenience but they ensure safety of all concerned as well as protection against leakage of sensitive information from the laboratory.