Staff of medical laboratories can be at risk from the infectious agents and toxic chemicals that they may have to deal with. A new International Standard is expected to make medical laboratories a safer place to work.

"Laboratory acquired injuries, infection, and illness, not only harm the worker and their colleagues, but also impact on family, friends, and the public," said Dr. Michael Noble, a member of the working group that developed the new standard. "This standard assists in establishing policies and processes that makes the laboratory a safer place to work while allowing essential diagnostic work to continue."

ISO 15190 specifies requirements to establish and maintain a safe working environment in a medical laboratory. It covers all safety aspects of laboratory safety, from management requirements and personnel responsibilities to radiation safety and fire precautions.

"The new standard addresses specific requirements for the most common issues that lead to accident and injury. It provides valuable informative tools to aid immediate implementation and safety assessment of laboratories," further notes Dr. Noble. "ISO 15190 can be used effectively by laboratories as a basis of their safety program. Laboratory Accreditation bodies will also find the standard a helpful resource."

ISO 15190 is intended for use in all types of medical laboratories, from major research and teaching institutions to field laboratories with limited resources. The special needs of laboratories that work with exotic infectious agents requiring elevated levels of containment are not addressed by the standard.

ISO 15190:2003 costs 128 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes and from ISO Central Secretariat (see below). The new standard is the work of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 212, Clinical laboratory testing and in vitro diagnostic test systems, working group WG 1, Quality management in the medical laboratory.