Safety in a Criminal Laboratory

Safety within any lab is essential for those who work within it, a crime lab is no exception and must abide to standards and regulations to protect their forensic scientists. Safety within labs can be defined as the protection of the workers from any danger, risk or injury.

What do the COSHH symbols mean?
Hazard Pictograms

Firstly, it is important to understand what procedures and regulations are put in place before even the hazards are considered as it helps to practice safe working from the get go. Criminal labs will have to follow procedures and regulations set by organizations like International Standards Organisation (ISO) which set controls and standards which labs must meet in order to be deemed technically competent and safe to work in. When working with specific chemicals, machinery, items or biological samples they should be processed or used correctly in order to reinforce safe working practices. Some lab specific ISO standards can be found on their website. In association with ISO other organizations like The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works with employees to promote safe and secure workplaces and to enhance worker voice in the workplace, this ensures safe and healthy workplaces alongside workers rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

More specifically within criminal labs, any substances that are worked with should have a control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) form or label to accompany it. Usually COSHH is presented through symbols which represent different dangers that arise from the substance. The diagram represents the symbol and its corresponding danger. These symbols can be associated with any of the following: chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapors, mists, nanotechnology, gases, asphyxiating gases or biological agents. It is important that any worker who is handling any of the listed substances above understands the COSHH symbol related to it and takes appropriate action. This may include wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), complying with any information, instruction or training that is provided, maintaining a high level of personal hygiene and making use of control measures and facilities provided by the employer. For more information about specific substances and reagents check the link below.

Equally, any equipment or machinery whether this be something like a Cyanoacrylate fuming machine or a simple as a microscope can cause injury to workers. To prevent this, risk assessment forms should be available to workers so they are aware what dangers are associated with the equipment they are using. These dangers that are associated with pieces of equipment could range from repetitive awkward postures that hurt the workers back to working with biological samples that pose health threats. All risks to health are to be considered and appropriate action should be taken to prevent these from happening on all pieces of equipment. Other practices of safety in criminal labs come down to safe working practices from the workers themselves, everyone should know the types of hazard they face; the worst event that can occur and what actions to take when they do happen.

Lastly, the labs themselves should withhold a maximum safety design, this usually includes strategic layout separating areas that pose threat to another, ergonomic design for the workers, furniture and fittings suitable for lab work and emergency equipment that is easily accessible.

With EVISCAN it is no more necessary to use chemical agents. It is more likely to work without any toxic substances and in an environment where lab Workers must not risk their health. EVISCAN stands for a safer workplace.