Many veterinary practices do a little or even a lot of lab work in-house these days. You don’t have to have a full-on veterinary diagnostic laboratory to recognize and follow safe working practices in your in-clinic lab.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have release Guidelines for Safe Work Practices in Human and Animal Medical Diagnostic Laboratories that includes a lengthy section on veterinary diagnostic laboratory safety (section 12), many of the concepts which could be adapted to your practice’s laboratory services.  

Though a lot of the information is at the veterinary diagnostic level, there are some practical guidelines for veterinary practice personnel who are handling animal samples. The guidelines state that in the laboratory, the routes of exposure of potentially infectious disease are limited and include inhalation of fine-droplet infectious aerosols by the airborne route, direct contact on skin or mucous membranes or ingestion of large-droplet infectious material, or percutaneous transmission by needles or other sharps. The National Research Council Committee on Hazardous Biological Substances in the Laboratory in 1989 recommended seven basic prudent biosafety practices to avoid exposure to infectious agents via the most common routes of laboratory infection.

Some of these include:

Hand washing – Hand washing is the most important procedure to reduce the duration of exposure to an infectious agent and prevent dissemination of the infectious agent. Hand contamination occurs during manipulation of specimens and contact with work surfaces, telephones and equipment.

Personal protective equipment – These can include gloves, fully closable long-sleeved coats or gowns and face and eye protection. The guidelines also suggest that open-toe shoes are not to be worn in the laboratory to prevent accidental spillage on bare skin, and protective clothing should not be worn outside the laboratory or taken home for cleaning or laundering.

Staff training – Biosafety training and education of workers about potential hazards and safe work practices are essential to creating a safe work environment.

The Guidelines also contains recommendations for emergency procedures that can be adapted to a practice, and tables of hazards, pathogens and more.

No matter at what level of laboratory services you might provide your clients, it’s always wise to keep an eye out for the safety of those employees who are working in your practice’s lab.

Read the full guidelines here.