Courier Personal Safety: Specimen or Chemical Spills

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Medical Courier Safety. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Courier Personal Safety: Specimen or Chemical Spills

If specimens or chemicals spill during transport, the medical courier must be ready and prepared to handle the spill.
  • Policies and procedures should be in place to handle spills of any dangerous substances being transported.
  • Spill kits should also be available in the vehicle.
  • Be sure to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, before handling any spill. Inspect the spill for hazards (e.g., broken glass) before attempting to clean up.
  • NEVER pick up broken glass or other sharps hazards with your hands, even if wearing gloves. Use tongs or other implements to pick up the glass, and always deposit it into a sharps container.
  • Blood or body fluid spills can be cleaned up using absorbent material (either an absorbent pad or an absorbent powder). Once the blood or body fluid is absorbed or cleaned up, disinfect the area of the spill with a 10% bleach solution. Dispose of waste into a biohazardous waste receptacle.
  • Chemical spills can be cleaned using absorbent materials such as pads or powders.
  • If a chemical spills and the odor becomes strong, stop the vehicle and get out. Do not breathe in chemical fumes; some can be very dangerous.
WARNING: Formaldehyde is a common preservative chemical used with pathology specimens, but it is a carcinogen (causes cancer), and its fumes are dangerous to inhale.
  • If formaldehyde (sometimes called formalin) is transported with specimens, be sure the vehicle has a formaldehyde neutralizer in the spill kit. These neutralizers are usually used by sprinkling over the spill and letting it sit for ten minutes. Once the neutralizer has worked, the spilled chemical no longer emits vapors and is safe to clean up. Bring any chemical spill materials to a laboratory for proper disposal.
  • Remember, some spilled chemicals can give off vapors that are very harmful and can cause a person to become unconscious, especially in the confines of a small vehicle. Leave the vehicle as soon as possible after a spill and assess whether or not the spill can be safely cleaned.
  • Depending on the severity of the incident (which could include a spill), notifying the Department of Transportation (DOT) may be required.
The incidents that require notifying the DOT can be found in 49 CFR Part 171.15.

Examples of vehicle spill materials.