In our previous blog article, we discussed how experts predict that COVID-19 vaccines will likely require “cold chain distribution.” If this is prediction is accurate, many people toward the end of the distribution chain will be handling dry ice on a daily basis.
This article discusses potential dry ice hazards and what precautions must be taken from a safety perspective.
Dry ice safety will be a critical component of responsible vaccine distribution
Dry ice pellets sublimate at -109.3 °F. While dry ice temperatures don’t reach the levels that cryogenic materials like liquid nitrogen do, dry ice burns still pose a serious risk.
According to Healthline, “When you get an ice burn, the water in the cells of your skin freezes. It forms sharp ice crystals, which can damage the structure of your skin cells. Blood vessels near your skin also begin to constrict. This reduces the flow of blood to affected areas, causing further damage.”
To avoid painful and potentially permanent injuries, warehouse and delivery personnel will need proper training and equipment to do their jobs safely when packing and delivering vaccines stored in dry ice.
This document by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidelines for dry ice storage and handling. Following are highlighted recommendations:
- Never handle dry ice with bare hands.
- Use cryogenic gloves, which are designed specifically for working in freezers below -80°C and for handling containers or vials stored in these freezers.
- Cryogenic gloves need to be loose-fitting so that they can be readily removed if a piece of dry ice falls into them.
- Always use appropriate eye protection.
- In case of exposure to cryogens or dry ice, remove any clothing that is not frozen to the skin. Do NOT rub frozen body parts because tissue damage may result. Obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Place the affected part of the body in a warm water bath (not above 40°C). Never use dry heat.
If your organization or business will be directly involved in the handling of COVID-19 vaccines, look to Tempshield for industry-leading cryogenic gloves and face shields, as well as aprons and gaiters.
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