The Lady who makes lab Safety fun

Dec. 1, 2009

Terry Jo Gile, MA Ed, MT(ASCP)


President and Owner, Safety Lady LLC
(formerly Gile and Associates),
North Fort Myers, FL

Administrative Coordinator,
Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO

Education coordinator, Medical Technology program;
Technologist and MT Instructor in Chemistry,
St. John's Regional Medical Center, Joplin, MO

Blood Bank/Chemistry Instructor,
St. Francis Hospital, Topeka, KS

Assistant Chief Technologist,
Boone County Hospital, Boone, IA

Chemistry Instructor, Shift Supervisor,
Iowa Methodist Hospital, Des Moines


MA, Education,
Central Michigan University,
Mount Pleasant, MI;
Medical Technology training,
Iowa Methodist Hospital, Des Moines; BA, Biology, Drake University,
Des Moines.


Traveling, water aerobics, mahjong, and cooking.

The birth of “Safety Lady.”
When I was hired at Barnes Hospital many years ago, my job description
included duties as the safety officer. I did not have a clue what to do,
so safety took a back seat to my other responsibilities. Several years
later, a chemistry supervisor told me about new safety requirements.
This was news to me, so I started taking my safety responsibilities
seriously. It was a particular challenge to find educational material
pertinent to safety in healthcare settings. I started attending
education programs and gathering information, but I found that the
content often was good, but the presentations were dry, boring, and
geared toward industry. That changed when I met with a helpful,
resourceful safety officer from the University of Wisconsin. Soon after,
armed with my research, I started writing and educating laboratorians
about safety. When the chemical hygiene standard was published in 1990,
I served on a panel to discuss the new standard. A staffer from CLMA
said it would be nice if someone wrote a model chemical hygiene plan
that they could publish, so I volunteered. And as they say, the rest is
history! Four model plans, 10 books, six DVDs, and six computer-based
games later — I have branded myself the “Safety Lady.”

Hot safety issues. OSHA as well a lab-accreditation bodies have focused so much on bloodborne
pathogens in recent years that the basics have been overlooked. For example,
very few labs have a chemical-hygiene effectiveness plan in place, even
though this standard has been around for 23 years. When doing consultations
with labs and conducting safety audits, I find inappropriate personal
protective equipment being used, and risk and task assessments unavailable —
and those requirements have been around for 22 years. Shipping infectious
and biological substance training is hot right now since the International
Air Transport Association requires it to be done every two years. Chemical
hygiene effectiveness and proper waste disposal are two other topics of
interest today (see
Waste Management).

Safety education. I believe that education — especially safety education, which is
traditionally a dry subject — should be fun. I currently offer an
academy for lab-safety officers to help them understand their
responsibilities, how and where to network, and where to get current
information. I have a training DVD for couriers in the works. I am also
in discussions with my publisher about writing a third edition of
Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety
. This edition will be online and
searchable as well as in hard copy — something the earlier editions were
not able to offer.

Seek out science students. Popular television programs like “CSI” have done a great job of
educating the masses and sparking young people's interest in laboratory
science, but not every student is cut out for this profession. We should
be reaching out to high school students in advanced biology and
chemistry classes. Mentoring programs are also a great idea. The
“Introduction to Medical Laboratory Science” class is great for helping
students make the choice early in their college career to determine
whether this career choice is a good fit.