Guidance Document for Implementing Health and Safety Programs in DNA Laboratories
Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM)
A variety of hazards exist in forensic laboratories. The risks
associated with these hazards are greatly reduced or eliminated
if proper precautions, practices, and procedures are observed in
the laboratory. The documentation of, and adherence to, practices
and procedures in a laboratory safety manual is an essential requirement
of an effective laboratory safety program.
The following supplemental guideline and associated health and
safety criteria have been developed to assist forensic laboratories
that perform DNA analysis in establishing the minimum requirements
of an environmental health and safety program. This guideline,
based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
standard for Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories
[Chemical Hygiene] - 29 CFR 1910.1450, is not intended to incorporate
all relevant federal and state environmental and occupational safety
and health regulatory standards that may apply to a laboratory
environment. Its goal is to identify those key elements, which
would constitute the minimum health and safety requirements that
a laboratory should strive to meet and serve as a basic guide to
evaluate current laboratory health and safety practices1.
In addition to the information provided in this document, additional
health and safety resources are provided at the end of the document.
- Does the laboratory have an effective health and safety program
documented in a manual? At minimum, the manual should include a
written bloodborne pathogen, chemical hygiene, and waste management
Review laboratory safety manual for minimum requirements.
- Does the laboratory provide and document health and safety
awareness training to its personnel, which includes at minimum
bloodborne pathogen and chemical hygiene?
Review the laboratory training records.
- Is an individual designated as the health and safety manager?
- Is the health and safety program monitored regularly and reviewed
annually to ensure that its requirements are being met?
Check for record of an annual internal review or inspection.
- Does the laboratory have procedures in place to document, investigate,
and take appropriate corrective action when an employee has been
injured or exposed to a hazardous material, including blood or
other potentially infectious material?
- Does the laboratory have an emergency and fire protection plan
to ensure safety in the event of an emergency?
Identify and review emergency and fire protection plan. Do the
employees know what to do in case of an emergency?
- Does the laboratory have a clearly written policy establishing
designated areas for eating, drinking, and storage of food and
During inspection, look for signs of eating/drinking (empty plates/cups)
in laboratory work areas.
- Does the laboratory have available and encourage the use of
personal protective equipment and safety devices, particularly
those required by its health and safety manual?
Verify by observation and discussion with laboratory personnel.
- Are sufficient first-aid kits available and strategically located?
Verify that kits are stored with appropriate supplies.
- Does the laboratory have safety shower and eyewash equipment
in appropriate locations and in good working condition?
Check locations of eyewashes and showers. Are emergency eyewashes
and showers unobstructed and in good working condition?
- Are the emergency exits from the laboratory adequate for safe
exit in the event of an emergency?
Check to see if evacuation routes are posted in laboratories. Ask
laboratory personnel to identify evacuation routes and exits. Are
aisles and passageways leading to emergency exits within the unit
clearly marked and kept unobstructed?
- Is there general cleanliness and apparent good housekeeping
in the laboratory?
Inspect for wires or extension cords under carpets or rugs, through
doorways, or placed in other traffic areas.
- Does the laboratory provide a documented training program
for chemical hygiene/hazard communication?
Review the training records.
- Do laboratory personnel have access to up-to-date Material
Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the chemicals used in the laboratory?
Look for location of MSDS files. Ask laboratory staff if they
are aware of the location of the MSDS files.
- Does the laboratory maintain a current chemical inventory?
- Does the laboratory have proper equipment and material readily
accessible for the handling of carcinogenic, toxic, and/or other
dangerous material spills?
Identify location of spill kits supplies. Do the employees know
the location of the spill kits and are they readily accessible?
Are the spill kits appropriate for the hazards present?
- Have personnel been instructed on how to respond in the event
of a chemical spill?
Have laboratory personnel discuss the laboratory's spill response
- Is appropriate space provided for safe storage of volatile,
flammable, explosive, and other hazardous materials?
Verify that flammable storage cabinets are available for bulk
storage of flammable materials. Verify that flammable materials
requiring refrigeration are stored in “explosion-proof” refrigerators.
- Are incompatible chemicals segregated in storage?
Check chemical storage areas.
- Are secondary containers used to store hazardous chemicals
labeled to identify contents and associated hazards?
Verify labeling of secondary containers during inspection. Hazard
warning labels may be in the form of words, pictures, symbols,
or a combination thereof.
- Are sufficient exhaust hoods available to maintain a safe
Survey area during inspection and discuss with laboratory personnel
to determine if hoods are checked regularly to ensure proper operation.
- Are chemical fume hoods free from excessive storage, which
increase risk of hazards and reduce efficiency?
Note difference between "in-use" materials and "storage".
- Are procedures in place and followed for the management and
disposal of chemical and biological waste?
Review laboratory's policy/procedures for waste management and
compare to current practices. Check to see that waste contents
- Have personnel who work with blood or other potentially infectious
materials received the necessary training for its safe handling,
use, and disposal and has the training been documented?
Verify by checking training records and through discussions with
- Are universal precautions observed when handling blood or
other potentially infectious materials?
During inspection process, observe laboratory operations involving
blood and other potentially infectious materials. Verify that personnel
follow universal precautions including the use of engineering controls
(sharp containers, biosafety cabinets, biohazard bags), work practice
controls (afe handling and disposal of sharps), personal protective
equipment, and housekeeping.
- Are laminar flow hoods, biological safety cabinets, or equivalent
engineering controls available and functioning?
Verify during laboratory inspection.
- Are biohazard-warning labels used as required?
Biohazard labels should be attached to containers of regulated
medical waste, including sharp disposal containers, refrigerators
and freezers containing blood, or other potentially infectious
materials (OPIM) and containers used to store or transport blood
- Has the hepatitis B vaccine and vaccine series been made available
to all employees who have a potential occupational exposure to
blood or other potentially infectious materials?
Verify through discussions with laboratory personnel.
- If the laboratory uses procedures and/or instrumentation
involving ionizing radiation, have precautionary procedures, personal
monitoring (dosimeters) labeling, and disposal requirements been
Have the laboratory provide a copy of the radiation safety plan.
1These guidelines are not intended to cover all applicable elements
of a health and safety program but rather to serve as a guide to
the laboratory manager the DNA auditor during an inspection. Additional
state and federal environmental and occupational health and safety
elements may be necessary to ensure compliance.
In addition to the information provided in the guidelines, further
laboratory safety standards, practices, and procedures, as well
as chemical safety information, may be obtained from the following
of the page