Physician Practice

The psychiatry of lab safety: Denial, fear, and stigma

Medical Environment Update, April 12, 2020

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Editor’s note: In this guest column, Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, laboratory safety officer for multihospital system Sentara Healthcare in Virginia, and otherwise known as “Dan, the Lab Safety Man,” discusses the important issues that affect your job every day.

As with previous emerging pathogens, the unknown virulence and infectivity of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused fears to grow (see pg. 1.) With the rapid spread of this virus, many lab workers have concerns about its potential effect on their work, safety, and health. It’s an interesting phenomenon from the perspective of someone who works to promote laboratory safety. Questions come to mind: Why isn’t the staff as concerned about all the other pathogens they work with every day? Why do lab workers still use cell phones or even eat in the lab setting when the danger of infection is so real?

As a safety professional, there are some additional questions to consider: How do we help lab staff become (respectfully) fearful of the things they work with in the lab? Since a reasonable fear would promote compliance with lab safety regulations and reduce the number of injuries and exposures, shouldn’t everyone want this?

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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