Want to avoid committing a serious faux pas before you start working in cleanrooms? That would be highly advisable says Lizzy Huitson as she takes us through her top tips…
Cleanrooms – specialised lab facilities designed to maintain very low levels of particulates – are a unique working environment. I’ve been working in them for several years, and have come to realise there are certain experiences you just don’t get anywhere else. So, before you start working in cleanrooms, be aware of the following…
You will experience ragular "sneeze panic" “Sneeze panic” is an emotion I never experienced before I started working in cleanrooms, but now there’s no escaping it. It’s a kind of deep, intense dread that occurs when you get the urge to sneeze and causes you to either run out of the room, or make ridiculous faces in an attempt to force the sneeze back inside.
There’s no official “No sneezing allowed” rule in the cleanrooms where I work, but we all know the reality – sneezing in the cleanrooms is on par with cutting your toenails in the office.
Dirty habits start to seem even dirtier There is a world outside the cleanrooms where things like touching your face or tearing a piece of Sellotape off the roll with your teeth are no big deal. But when people (engineers, here to fix the autoclave) do these things inside the cleanrooms, they can seem like signs of the apocalypse. I once saw an engineer picking his nose and almost had a heart attack.
You will become an authority on personal hygiene Remember when the internet got its collective knickers in a twist over whether it’s acceptable not to wash your legs in the shower? I’m sure cleanroom workers gave their answers with a little more authority than most. With all the environmental monitoring we have to do, any shortcomings in personal hygiene would become quickly, embarrassingly obvious.
Gowned up, everyone looks the same Cleanroom gowning can range from a simple lab coat and hairnet, to a full-on bunny suit with facemask, overboots and multiple pairs of gloves. The latter type of gowning can make it very difficult to tell people apart. Do yourself a favour and don’t start gossiping about a colleague until you’re 100% sure you’re not actually talking to her.
Bladder checks are essential Picture this: You’ve washed your hands as thoroughly as a surgeon about to perform open-heart surgery. You’ve put on a hairnet, then a pair of overshoes, then a pair of non-sterile gloves, then a facemask, then another pair of overshoes, then a hood, coverall and overboots followed by a final pair of sterile gloves. Then you realise you need a wee.
Unless you fancy doing all that in reverse, then doing it again, bladder checks are non-optional!
Lizzy Huitson is Senior GMP Technician at Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility, the University of Oxford