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Safety First: Capri slacks

Are they appropriate for healthcare attire?

by Dennis Ernst • December 04, 2020

Professionalism, Safety

Blood drop with text Safety First

Question: Our hospital facility has recently approved Capri-type slacks for staff as long as they are neat and professional looking. However, the lab is different. I am concerned with the risk of exposure should a specimen be dropped or should there be a splatter. My staff is enthusiastic about the new policy, but I don't think they realize the risks involved, nor do they know the policy is potentially out of compliance with safety regulations. So I'm about to become very unpopular if I fight this and try to make the lab excluded by the new permissive policy. So first, help me understand if Capri slacks allowable in the lab, and how to I keep myself from being ostracized by my own staff because of my efforts to disallow them.

My response:
We’re with you on this one. Even though the hospital approves of them, let's face it, Capri slacks are neither neat nor professional looking. But the bigger issue is that those who collect, transport and process blood or other bodily fluids are at risk of splatter when tubes and other containers containing samples drop and/or spill. You won't find anything specific to Capri pants in any document or regulation, so it's up to your facility to assess the risk. That means you have the power to establish by your own determination that you feel Capri-type slacks present an exposure risk to your staff. Once you make that determination, you are obligated by OSHA to protect your staff by banning their use in your department.

To win the battle for acceptance among your staff, you'll need to explain that it's your determination based on your experience and professional opinion that Capri slacks put your staff at risk, and because of that, you are bound by federal regulations (OSHA) to prohibit their use. You'll also need to articulate what could happen to any one of them should they be exposed below the cuffs of their Capri slacks. Finally, express that your decision is based on not only the best interests of the facility, but also their own safety. Additionally, we strongly recommend you lobby the administrators to disallow Capri slacks for laboratory staff. That way, your staff sees that there's administrative support behind your decision. Bring your safety office in on the discussion as well.


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