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Microtomy and Injury Prevention: Mechanical Hazards

Most new histotechnologists do not have a full grasp on the variety of hazards that are associated with microtomy of tissues. An extremely sharp blade is not the only danger lurking around the microtome bench. On the next few pages, an overview of the most common hazards of microtomy are presented, including how to prevent them. Engineering controls should be put into place whenever feasible and personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn to prevent these hazards and reduce/eliminate the possibility of exposure.
Mechanical hazards
The mechanical hazards involved in microtomy consist of microtome blades/knives, scalpels, glass slides, glassware, and electrical hazards. One of the most common injuries in the histology laboratory is receiving a cut from the microtome blade. Cuts can occur when:
  • Placing or removing blocks from the block holder: Blade is in blade holder and the wheel lock is NOT on; when block holder sweeps down towards the blade, if finger(s) in the way, a cut can occur
  • Changing blades
  • Cleaning the microtome while the blade is in place
  • Grabbing a ribbon from the blade with fingers
  • Wiping the face of the block in block holder while blade is in place

Injury prevention

To prevent microtomy injuries caused by mechanical hazards:

  • Always lock the wheel when exchanging blocks
  • Slowly and carefully change blades; discard blades in sharps container
  • Remove blade before cleaning microtome; do NOT leave blade in microtome when not in use
  • Use care and tools (wood sticks and forceps) when grabbing ribbons from knife
  • Use gauze to wipe face block or face plate between blocks