There are many sharp and pointy objects in an anatomic pathology laboratory, so the risk of accidental cut or puncture injury can be high.


Risk factors - operator related:

(1) novice worker

(2) tired or not paying attention

(3) rushing while under stress

(4) not wearing hand and wrist protection when appropriate

(5) cutting towards rather than away from a body part

(6) cutting blind or with vision obscurred (due to blood or tissue)

(7) more than 1 pair of hands in a cutting field

(8) reflex grabbing without thinking

(9) pointing or gesturing with a loaded scalpel

(10) reaching into a tight space


Risk factors - the unexpected:

(1) slippery tissue or instrument (from blood or fat)

(2) unexpected giving way (when straining against or pushing, penetrating through a barrier)

(3) richochet

(4) slipped on the floor or out of a chair

(5) accidentally hitting, hurling or dropping an instrument


Risk factors - equipment related:

(1) handling knife blades without a handle

(2) replacing blades

(3) using a cryostat

(4) using disposable microtome blades inappropriately

(5) disposal of blades or needles (inappropriate container, overfilled container)

(6) reaching into an instrument drawer

(7) using scissors with pointed blades

(8) placing of a blade, knife or needle in tissue where it cannot be seen

(9) using a make-shift blade handle

(10) equipment failure (blade breaking, etc.)


Risk factors - specimen related:

(1) needles left in tissue (breast biopsy with localizing needle, etc)

(2) orthopedic hardware with sharp edges

(3) foreign bodies in specimen (broken needles in drug addicts, knife blades, etc.)

(4) examining a tissue for lymph nodes

(5) cutting bone or calcified tissue


The risk associated with a cut depends on:

(1) how deep the cut (even though a superficial scratch can be serious)

(2) where the cut is

(3) how much blood and potentially infective material is about

(4) presence of a potentially lethal infectious pathogen

(5) what the injured person does (seek attention vs ignores injury)


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