Lab workers who are planning to have children need to pay special attention when working with agents that fall into the category of “reproductive hazards.” The United States Department of Labor defines reproductive hazards as “substances or agents that may affect the reproductive health of women or men or the ability of couples to have healthy children.” These potentially harmful substances may be biological, such as certain viruses; physical, such as radiation; or chemical, such as lead.
If absorbed into the system through contact with the skin, swallowing, or breathing these hazards in, they could lead to developmental disorders in future children, miscarriage and birth defects. Current family members could also be exposed through a lab worker bringing contaminants home on his/her tools, skin, hair, clothes, vehicle or footwear.
To minimize the danger, managers and workers can follow these tips:
- Establish and follow proper work practices for reproductive hazards
- Set up a training program for working with agents harmful to reproductive health
- Practice good hygiene
- Use workplace engineering controls (such as local ventilation and isolation) to minimize exposure to these hazards
- Wear proper protective equipment
- Follow the guidelines on the substances’ Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
- Make sure all equipment is properly maintained and inspected and the work area is kept clean
- Ensure there is adequate supervision to enforce safety procedures
While reproductive hazards are quite intimidating as they can potentially harm not only the lab worker, but also their current or future family members, following these eight rules is a good first step to ensuring safety.
For more information visit: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/reproductivehazards/