CDC experts call for better lab accident tracking system

A panel of disease experts released safety guidelines for workers in medical diagnostic laboratories on Thursday, warning that the nation needs a better system for tracking lab accidents.
According to the lengthy report, written by a panel of experts convened by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aside from requirements in the CDC's Select Agent Program, there is no national system for reporting medical laboratory exposures and the infections that result, CIDRAP News reports.
"(There should be a) voluntary, non-punitive surveillance and reporting system with the potential for anonymity to be implemented in the United States," the panel said, according to CIDRAP News.
The comments were part of the Guidelines for Safe Work Practices in Human and Animal Diagnostic Laboratories report that was released by the CDC to supplement its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The new guidelines, intended to supplement the fifth edition of Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, have the general aim of improving clinical lab safety, encouraging lab workers to think about new safety issues and to encourage workers "to create and foster a culture of safety." According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 500,000 people who work in human and animal diagnostic labs.
"Because of the lack of an official surveillance mechanism for reporting LAIs and because of the fear of punitive action by an oversight agency if injuries are reported, the data needed to determine the extent and cause of LAIs are unavailable," the report said, according to CIDRAP News. "In addition, there is a dearth of science-based insights on prevention of LAIs."
The report recommends the use of biological safety cabinets with yearly inspections, frequent hand washing with the use of appropriate disinfectants, risk assessments for many activities, written safety protocols addressing chemical-related risk, lab areas in which use of gloves is optional or recommended and the need for negative airflow into labs.