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February 01, 2011
Hospital Laboratory Employee Safety: Morgue Hazards

Hospital laboratory employees often must interact with the morgue, which presents safety hazards. The hazards include employee exposure to infectious diseases/agents or to chemicals. Diseases such as staph, strep, tuberculosis, HIV, or hepatitis may be present, and exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde may occur from contact with cadavers.

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Actions hospitals can take to reduce these risks:

  • Provide appropriate ventilation systems (e.g., downdraft tables that capture the air around the cadaver).
  • Place local vacuum systems for power saws in the morgue. Shields should be in place when significant splash hazards are anticipated.
  • Use splatter guards (e.g., plexiglass), to prevent splashes from reaching employee.
  • Use Universal Precautions as required by the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, or gowns. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires PPE if blood exposure is anticipated. During autopsies or orthopedic surgery, additional PPE may be required such as surgical caps, hoods, or shoe covers or boots. These shall be worn in instances when gross contamination can reasonably be anticipated.

These tips are available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hospital eTool, but may be applicable to other workplaces as well.

For more information on healthcare or hospital safety, see this OSHA Hospital eTool for reference.

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