Friday, February 12, 2010

Implementation of Medical Surveillance Program

What is the first attempt? As identified above, the employer must first evaluate the many hazards the employees may come across while discharging their duties. In an animal research laboratory the more common hazards are as follows:

* Standardization of lab acquired allergies (LAA). It has been estimated over 33% of animal handlers have allergic symptoms, and approximately 10% have symptoms of animal induced asthma8 and 73% of those that have pre-existing allergies will gradually develop allergies to laboratory animals. 9
* Physical hazards, including musculoskeletal disorders, strains, sprains, crushing or pinching injuries as a result of handling animal cage rack systems, noise exposures
* Chemical hazards, including exposure to laboratory chemicals (disinfectants, cage wash-chemicals, formaldehyde), or protocol introduced toxins
* Biological hazards, including protocol introduced human pathogens, or zoonotic pathogens
* Radiation hazards, involving ionizing and non-ionizing (lasers), exposure to radiation.

At Southern Research Institute, Occupational safety and health program is termed on the Hierarchy of Protection. It includes a step-wise process introduced to safeguard employees and outlined here:

1) The use of engineering controls, where possible, is the first line of protection and a key component of an occupational safety and health program. This is where one attempt to engineer out the hazards so employees will not be exposed. Examples of engineering controls are ventilated cage rack systems, ventilated dumping stations, biological safety cabinets, and fume hoods.

2) The introduction of administrative controls is the next part of an occupational safety and medical program. This includes the use of management systems to control exposures to employees. The development of safety integrated into policies and procedures and employee training and documentation programs fall into this set. This is where the medical surveillance programs come into play.

3) Lastly, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last process put into place to safeguard the lives of employees. This typically is called the “last line of defense,” and is what the employer depends on to protect staff after the other measures have been implemented.

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