Contrary to popular belief, “irregardless” is not a word. The correct word is “regardless.” One can be frustrated or one can be flustered, but it is incorrect to say one is “flustrated.”When these common grammatical errors are made, it can be very irksome for some Type A Personality laboratory professionals. For those in the field of lab safety, however, this can be a lesson for learning how to improve the lab safety culture.
Very often grammatical errors are made because people simply do not remember what is correct, or the correct use of the word was never explained to them. If we hear something that is wrong, we may make a judgement about the person who said it—they are not well-educated, they are lazy, etc. We tell ourselves a story, and often, unfortunately, it is inaccurate.
You walk into the laboratory and you see the new tech Judy working at the bench with no gloves. Last week you spoke to Judy about the same issue, and she told you she would wear them from now on. In your frustration you believe Judy to be obdurate and someone who willfully violates lab safety practices. Because these things are in your mind, the conversation you are about to have with Judy will not go well.
Consider the following options:
- Judy ran out of gloves and doesn’t know where to get more.
- Judy went to get more gloves in the store room, but there is a combination lock on the door and she doesn’t know what it is.
- Judy has developed a skin reaction to the gloves and is embarrassed to bring it up.
- Judy just received a phone call that her mother is very ill and she is quite upset.
- Judy saw the supervisor working without gloves and assumed you spoke to her last week because it’s your job to look out for safety.
These are just some of the possible influences on Judy’s decision not to wear gloves. To have good conversations about safety, your job is to determine the real issue without telling yourself stories first. Maybe everyone in the lab says “irregardless.” Maybe no one ever told Judy the correct word to use.
If you want to make a difference in your lab safety culture, think about the sources of influence on staff behavior. Ask about the reasons for the behavior, and work patiently to educate people about the consequences of unsafe actions. Use these tactics to reduce the amount of “flustration” you may feel when working to promote safety every day.
-Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ) has over 25 years experience as a certified medical technologist. Today he is the Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a system of seven hospitals and over 20 laboratories and draw sites in the Tidewater area of Virginia. He is also known as Dan the Lab Safety Man, a lab safety consultant, educator, and trainer.