Workplace Safety Guides

   Infection Agents


Infectious agents constitute a serious hazard in hospital labs. For your protection, the lab applies universal precautions that call for all specimens being treated as potentially infectious. To further guard against potentially infectious agents, thoroughly familiarize yourself with the universal precautions contained in your activity exposure control plan.

There are many kinds of infectious agents that may be present in a hospital lab and they may be transmitted in a variety of ways. Some are airborne and could be acquired simply by breathing in the germs. This can happen if the containers are not properly covered or if you do not wear a mask or respirator. Uncap containers only behind a protective barrier.

Other infectious agents might be ingested into the mouth if safe pipetting procedures are not followed or hands are not thoroughly washed. Infections may also directly enter the bloodstream through accidental pricking of the skin by a needle or broken glass. Some microbes may enter through mucus membranes particularly the eyes, if contaminated hands are used to rub the eyes or to insert contact lenses.

Hepatitis and AIDS are major concerns in a hospital lab. These viruses can cause serious illness and eventual death. All employees must use the correct protective clothing and equipment, and must properly dispose of needles and other contaminated waste. Removing contaminated gloves after handling specimens and washing hands thoroughly even though gloves were worn is essential. This will protect all employees from acquiring any of these dangerous infections.

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