Physician Practice

Asimov's (more than) three laws of sharps safety

Medical Environment Update, November 19, 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.

In Isaac Asimov’s writings about science, he created “the three laws,” a set of rules designed by humans that robots must follow in that fictional society.

1.    Robots cannot harm humans
2.    Robots must obey humans (unless it conflicts with the first law)
3.    Robots must protect themselves from harm (unless it conflicts with the first two laws) 

With those laws in place, there shouldn’t be any issues with the use of robots in society—but bending those laws (so robots followed the words of the law rather than the spirit) provided interesting plots for many books and movies.

There are three laws for sharps safety as well, but the consequences of breaking those laws are not hypothetical—healthcare workers can be placed in real danger.

In the United States, OSHA has created regulations about needles and other sharps that are found in the Bloodborne Pathogens standard. These safety rules can be broken down into at least two sets of “three laws” for the sake of simplicity.  

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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