‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ is a saying which holds true for any work place but it is greatly relevant for a laboratory. The article How good hygiene practices contribute to laboratory safety and quality of results provided some useful suggestions for good laboratory housekeeping and its implementation through self-discipline. The present article discusses some measures which will help you keep your laboratory free from external dust and contamination.
External contamination can result from several sources such as:
- Outside dust
- Visitors and laboratory workers
- Personal belongings
- Laboratory repairs
A laboratory needs to be kept free from outside dust and contamination. The objective is easily achieved if it is kept as an isolated environment free from natural elements such as heat, dust and rain.
The following suggested measures will prove useful:
- Ideally a laboratory should be located inside the interior of a building. If this is not feasible then there should be no open windows. All window openings should be covered with glass panes with permanent sealing.
- All floors and corridors should be kept clean and mopped at least twice daily
- Laboratory entry points should have double doors with air curtains. Laboratory staff should be provided facility at entry points where outside shoes should be covered with shoe covers or left in racks and laboratory footwear for use inside laboratory should be worn
- Every time a laboratory workers goes outside to use canteen or toilet facility laboratory footwear should be exchanged with outside footwear and again changed on return
- Regularly clean air conditioner filters so that dust accumulated on them does not circulate inside the laboratory.
Visitors and Laboratory Workers
Visitors and laboratory workers including staff from other departments are potential carriers of outside dust and contamination.
- Laboratory access should be regulated and same rules at time of entry should be applicable for all
- Only authorized entry should be permitted inside the laboratory. It will promote distraction free work environment for others who are not concerned with such visitors.
- It is a good idea to provide a service window where samples can be handed over for testing, documents exchanged and a dedicated attendant can provide necessary information without much distraction to others working inside. This arrangement will also minimize entry of dust and other outside contaminants
- Personal belongings such as bags, food articles and mobile phones should not be allowed inside laboratory as these can bring in external contamination and at the same time can carry laboratory contamination when taken outside. Provide lockers where such articles can be deposited at time of entry into the laboratory.
- Female workers should not be permitted to wear face makeup or jewellery items such as rings, ear/nose rings, necklaces, lipsticks, etc as such items increase risk of contamination. Long-hair should be tied up and covered with laboratory head gear to prevent dandruff from falling into laboratory samples
It often becomes necessary to carry out repairs or renovations in certain laboratory sections. Such activities can introduce contamination in the form of cement dust, brick dust or sawdust. Before carrying out such work care should be taken to
- Isolate the repair area with dust-proof screens
- Keep sensitive instruments covered when such activities are in progress
- Restrict movement of repair workers outside the repair zone
- Clean the work space at the earliest after the repair work is completed
In spite of the best measures adopted to prevent outside dust and contamination some dust does begin to accumulate in laboratories over a period of time. The best recourse is to adopt personal hygiene measures and follow the daily mopping and cleaning schedules.