College Human Anatomy Laboratory| Case Study
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Occupational Exposure Issues in a College Human Anatomy Laboratory

Forensic Analytical Consulting Services, Inc. performed industrial hygiene sampling at a California college. The work focused on evaluating inhalation exposures to chemicals during anatomy instructional courses involving work with human cadavers. The purpose of the investigation was to evaluate lab instructor exposures to chemicals found in tissue preservation solutions (e.g., formaldehyde, phenol, glutaraldehyde) relative to occupational exposure limits, provide recommendations for controls, and provide documentation for the college’s adherence to health and safety guidelines and regulations.

Key Results

Exposures were found to be above the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) permissible exposure limits.

Recommendations for control measures (e.g., engineering, administrative, PPE) to reduce exposure levels to assessed agents were provided to the client.

The client was provided with pertinent information, such as employee training and medical evaluation requirements in accordance with the promulgated Cal/OSHA Standard for the specific agents assessed.

About the Client

The college offers several anatomy instructional courses, including laboratory exercises that involve the use of human cadavers. The instructional courses are held in standard college classrooms. Cadavers are often positioned on gurneys in the classroom and used during laboratory instruction. At the time of the survey, the college was using three “older” cadavers (five to six years old) and two “newer” cadavers (received less than a year prior to the survey). The instructors prepared the newer cadavers during the sampling period for classroom instruction purposes.

The Problem

The college did not have a record of previous exposure studies performed by the faculty and staff during human cadaver anatomy courses. To ensure the safety of their staff and students, the school retained FACS as environmental and occupational health experts to assist in assessing inhalation exposures to agents found in preservations and embalming solutions.

The FACS Solution

FACS industrial hygiene experts created a suitable sampling and analytical plan following discussions with the client and a review of pertinent documentation (e.g., SDSs). FACS collected and analyzed data which included the use of statistical analysis to account for variability. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Exposure Assessment Strategy recognizes the 95th percentile of exposure distributions as an appropriate statistic to categorize potential exposures relative to occupational exposure limits.

Based on that assessment, FACS advised the college to inform exposed employees per applicable regulations and to report the results in accordance with OSHA requirements. Additionally, FACS provided a list of recommendations for controls to reduce exposure.

The decision to act proactively and call FACS for assistance ensured the college’s compliance with OSHA regulations and served to ease the concerns of both faculty, staff and students.

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