Hoods and Shields
Many years ago I worked in a little STAT lab beside a draw station with a pass-through window. Hematology specimens were handed through the window to where a colleague and I set up sed rates, ran blood counts, made smears, etc. We were always busy.
Our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) didn’t exist. We didn’t have shields, fluid-resistant lab jackets, gloves, eye protection, or mechanical protection such as automatic pipettors, primary tube piercing, etc. Throughout the day, our counter was littered with bloody gauze. The odds of having a significant exposure were good. Sed rates were especially disgusting, because we directly mouth-pipetted into Westergren tubes.
I know -- gross. Ask anyone over fifty.
Modern laboratories, fortunately, are different. It’s impossible to imagine techs performing tests without gloves and coats. Mouth pipetting and “spit tubes” are unheard of. Techs wash hands, bleach counters, wear disposable lab coats, and never, ever eat, drink, or smoke at the bench.
PPE has become a personal part of all our lives, increasing safety without sacrificing quality. A few “old timers” may be nonchalant about cleaning up spills or using gloves now and then, but everyone knows better.
Hoods and shields are also PPE. Are they used as much, I wonder?
Like a salad bar sneeze guard in reverse, a shield or biohood is intended to protect the individual from aerosols. They are a physical barrier (e.g. plexiglas) between the tech’s eyes, nose, and mouth and the product. These can be very flexible, mounted on articulating arms that can reach over the entire bench, or be smaller and portable. Alternatively, techs can wear a plastic shield over the entire face.
My experience and observation has been that techs don’t like them. Shields are ergonomically clumsy, usually requiring manipulation of or wrapping one’s arms around the device. Hoods are great in microbiology, but I seldom see them used for procedures outside the department.
What about your laboratory? Are you using hoods and shields? What works, and what doesn’t?
NEXT: Sins of Age