Researcher’s Finger Caught in Microtome


What Happened?

A researcher sustained a laceration to one of his fingers when sectioning tissue with a microtome. The researcher was examining the position of the tissue sample inside the microtome but did not engage the hand wheel brake or the hand wheel lock. Furthermore, he did not use the knife guard to cover the cutting surface while manipulating the sample. The researcher’s finger was caught between the cassette clamp and the knife holder base resulting in a ¾ inch laceration. The researcher reported the incident to his supervisor and was send to the emergency room for treatment.

What Was The Cause?

Inattention to the task at hand and failure to utilize safety devices contributed to the injury.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

• Discuss and review the safety procedures for the microtome
• Update SOP for microtome procedures and have researcher sign it

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

• Make sure to engage the hand wheel brake of the microtome
• Cover the microtome blade with a knife guard whenever you examine or manipulate the speciment inside the microtome.


> Microtome Safety Guidelines
> Risk Group Classification for Infectious Agents


When you get hurt in the lab or on campus

1. Seek medical attention if needed

2. Report the incident to your supervisor


Sharp Blades

• Sharp blades are often used to cut tissues infected with risk group 2 and 3 agents; cuts result in potential exposure!

• Sharp blades as found in microtomes, cryostats and scalpels cause the majority of severe lacerations in UCLA research labs.