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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title Protocol Deviation #1: A Scary Finger Cut in the Lab
Long Title Protocol Deviation #1: A Scary Finger Cut in the Lab
Contributor/Contact John Banja, PhD? (jbanja@emory.edu)
Contributor Details John Banja, PhD?
Director, Section on Ethics in Research
Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
CTSA Emory
Case Study Provided A few years ago while working in the lab, I attempted to grab a bottle of solution from a shelf. As I absentmindedly reached for the bottle, I felt a nasty pain and saw a tear in my latex glove with blood oozing from it. My gloved hand had brushed a broken glass pipette that was taped to and hanging from the shelf above.

Back then, I was very anxious about my productivity and whether the PI approved my work (and me). So, maybe not surprisingly, my first reaction was, “The PI is going to fire me! How clumsy can I be?” But then I really got scared as the research I do involves a host of blood born viruses. I looked at the pipette shard and noticed that it was caked with dried blood. Blood on that pipette might have entered my system. So I ran to the sink to clean my hands, following the biosafety protocol of a fifteen minute wash. At some point, a postdoc came along and asked me what happened.

I thought about making up a story because what is supposed to happen in a case like this is that I would go to Employee Health and get checked out and then report the incident. That report would trigger a lab inspection from the Office of Biosafety. But at that moment, as I stood over the sink feeling awful about this entire situation, the thought of bringing the Office of Biosafety down on the lab was the last thing I wanted to have happen.

As things turned out, all of my anxieties were unfounded. I did tell the PI what happened and, to my enormous relief, he was extremely concerned about my safety and just as upset about the obvious safety violation. He insisted the incident be reported to the Office of Biosafety. He then used that report to educate lab employees about the importance of protocol compliance.

In the months that followed, I discussed the incident with some of my peers. Interestingly, some of them immediately resonated with my fears about bringing an inspection down on the lab. I was fortunate to have a PI who invited the inspection without hesitation and made sure the rest of the lab workers learned something from it. But perhaps not all PIs would react the same way. I’m also concerned that had I not spoken up (and I was sorely tempted not to) about the protocol violation—imagine, a pipette shard with dried and probably infected blood being taped to and hanging from a shelf!—those kinds of lapses would continue.

Why do these temptations to keep silent exist, resulting in unsafe environments remaining unsafe? Why did a number of my colleagues share my anxiety over reporting this (with a couple even saying they wouldn’t have reported it)? Please comment.
Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics
Variations in lab practices—legitimate and illegitimate variations
Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities Topics
Scientific responsibilities of the mentor
Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship Topics No publication practices and responsible authorship topics
Peer Review Topics No peer review topics
Collaborative Science Topics No collaborative science topics
Research Misconduct Topics No research misconduct topics
Conflicts of Interest, Law and Policy Topics No conflicts of interest_law_and policy topics
Human Subjects No human subjects

URL http://www.actsi.org/areas/erks/ethics/index.html
RCR Keyword Lab Partners, Post-doc
Other RCR Keywords Biosafety Protocol; Blood; Blood Born Viruses; Broken Glass Pipette; Clumsy; Employee Health; Fifteen Minute Wash; Keep Silent; Lab; Lab Inspection; Latex Glove; Office of Biosafety; PI; Post-doc; Protocol Violation; Research; Safety Violation; Tear; Temptations
Type of Case

Source for Topic Areas Du Bois, J., & Dueker, J. (2009). Teaching and Assessing the Responsible Conduct of Research: A Delphi Consensus Panel Report. Journal of Research Administration, 40(1), 49-70.


Topic revision: r1 - 03 Nov 2011 - 16:23:29 - DebieSchilling
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