by Dennis Ernst • September 27, 2017
This month's Mover & Shaker is Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP) SLS, CQA (ASQ), aka, "Dan the Lab Safety Man." We consider him a M&S because he found a way to take his passion to a new level, impacting clinical laboratories far and wide. Besides being the Laboratory Safety Officer at the Sentara Health Care system based in Virginia, Mr. Scungio is a highly recruited speaker at state and national laboratory conferences as well as a volunteer member for CLSI helping to create safety guidelines. As Dan the Lab Safety Man, he consults with laboratories to improve their safety practices, conducts an annual Academy for Lab Safety Excellence, and makes books and DVDs available on his web site.
Dan is the go-to guy for the Center for Phlebotomy Education whenever we're stumped by a safety question on blood collection, handling, processing and transportation. Dan has authored several safety articles for prominent laboratory publications such as Medical Laboratory Observer (MLO), Advance for Administrators of the Laboratory, Clinical Lab Products, Medical Lab Management, and Clinical Laboratory Management Review (CLMR). Dan has also written the fourth edition of the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety with Terry Jo Gile.
We asked if he would answer a few questions for us on how his career morphed into becoming a leading OSHA and lab safety consultant.
Phlebotomy Today-STAT!: What made you want to venture out as an OSHA consultant? Was there a pivotal moment?
Scungio: I had been a lab manager for over 10 years when I was considering changing careers. I met Terry Jo Gile (known as "The Safety Lady") who spoke at a local conference, and we talked about the role of a lab safety officer. With her inspiration, I applied and accepted the position of Laboratory Safety Officer for a system of laboratories. It was a big job, and on my first day I learned that I did not have the eyes to see the safety issues that were occurring. Over time I learned that was the source of so many lab safety issues- it wasn't that people didn't care, it was that they hadn't been trained to develop their "Safety Eyes." They couldn't see what was wrong, and they didn't have the training to deal with the issues once they could see them. When Terry Jo approached me about working with her and becoming a lab safety consultant, I felt ready. We worked together until her retirement, and I have been working to open peoples' Safety Eyes ever since.
PT-STAT!: What brings you the greatest reward in being an entrepreneur?
Scungio: The greatest reward I experience in my business is when a client tells me my presentation or material was useful or valuable to them. My goal truly is to make people who work in labs everywhere safer, and if a small part of that message works, I am humbly gratified.
PT-STAT!: What do you see as the greatest challenge in your industry?
Scungio: I see two great challenges in laboratory safety today. The first is what I see as an overall lack of focus on lab safety. Behaviors such as not wearing gloves or lab coats should never occur in today's world, but it is surprisingly prevalent. I hear from several clients that PPE compliance in labs is their biggest challenge. Why is that? What don't laboratorians understand about the dangers of chemicals and bloodborne pathogens? The problem is individual lack of safety ownership, and one of my goals is to promote that. The second major challenge in lab safety that I see has to do with training the next generations about safety. New graduates seem to have a better grasp of some safety issues. For instance, they might never consider handling samples without gloves, they have respect for the danger. On the other hand, they might think nothing of taking out their cell phone in the lab (with gloves on) to snap a picture and post it on the internet. Lab guidance tells us not to use personal electronic devices in the lab, but we know that in this technology age, these devices are not going away. How do we reconcile these things and keep safety at the forefront in a way staff will comply? It's a tricky problem that has to be discussed from different viewpoints.
PT-STAT!: At the end of your career, what would you like to be able to say was your single greatest accomplishment?
Scungio: I hope I can look back and see that overall, laboratories are safer places- fewer injuries and lab-acquired infections would be the result. Laboratorians would have a clearer safety perspective and ownership of their safety culture. That may sound Utopian, but I do not wish to accomplish this for my sake. I want those who work in the labs to have happy healthy lives to share with friends and family.
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