Monthly Archives: February 2018

Back to Basics: Mechanical Mass Spec Safety Reminders

reminder notesRecently we got “back to basics” with reminders about the importance of common lab safety issues and the dangers of becoming complacent.

The same complacency can happen when working specifically with a mass spec. Here’s a reminder of safety issues that can arise in any lab, starting with mass spectrometer mechanical hazards.

Hot Hazards

Your mass spec gets hot when it works. In fact, the ion source probe can exceed a temperature of 700 degrees Celsius in some machines, due to gas flow and temperature settings. This means you must allow at least 10 minutes after your protocol is finished before removing the ion source and probe.

Heavy Hazards

Your mass spectrometer is not designed to be lifted and carried around, which is why our IonBench MS is designed with strong casters that can withstand the weight of your mass spec.

To avoid a lab accident, do not lift or transfer your mass spectrometer without the help of qualified service personnel. If your mass spec is not on a wheeled lab bench, check its weight in the safety materials provided with your instrument, and it bears repeating to be certain to obtain qualified help for moving it. Remember that not only do you risk injuring your back from lifting such heavy equipment, but you could also damage the instrument through rough handling.

Outflow Hazards

Materials that flow into your mass spectrometer also flow out. Your mass spec’s drain vessel will collect discharge from the ion source, and this effluent could contain acidic, caustic, or dangerous organic elements. Residual trace amounts of the solutions you analyzed could also be present, posing a lab safety issue.

In addition, when using your mass spec there are potential hazards associated with the exhaust. Exhaust gases must be safely vented through the source system to avoid any discharge of toxic materials.

Gas Hazards

Gases pose a lab safety hazard because they are stored in pressurized containers. Those containers have explosive potential, especially if you are careless about where they are set or stored.

Make certain flammable gases are never placed near an area where open flames are generated, nor stored near instruments or devices that generate heat, such as the coils of your freezer or the vents of your lab’s HVAC system.

Nitrogen Hazards

Nitrogen gas is of particular concern and worth a separate mention as it is commonly used in mass specs. Nitrogen is neither explosive nor combustible, meaning that it does not pose the same types of dangers mentioned above. However, nitrogen gas will displace oxygen if it is allowed to escape, raising the possibility of suffocation, so proper storage of nitrogen is critical. If you have a dewar or generator in a confined space, consider an oxygen sensor/alarm.

Trace Hazards

Finally, residue from any hazardous or biohazardous materials that you have analyzed in your mass spectrometer can remain in trace amounts on your instrument. Always carefully clean the interface, vacuum chamber, and ion source. Contaminants can also end up in your pump oil, and thus also the oil exhaust filter.

Enhancing Mass Spec Safety

All of the above mass spec safety hazards can be mitigated to some degree. Using dedicated lab furniture that has been specifically designed for your mass spectrometer is one way to significantly reduce the possibility of accidents in your lab.

But mechanical hazards are just one aspect of mass spec safety. Our next post will address the electrical safety hazards posed by mass specs.

For more ideas on how you can address lab safety concerns, contact us today.

Budget-Friendly Ideas for Overhauling Your Mass Spec Lab Furniture

Piggybank and calculatorLab environments are not always easy on furniture. Sometimes laboratory furniture is damaged from harsh conditions and raw materials. Other times, it can become weak and unstable from being moved around and wrestled into complex lab configurations, over and over again.

While we’d all like to replace everything in our labs with the latest and greatest lab furniture for every instrument, sometimes fiscal realities mean that’s just not possible.

Here are three suggestions for upgrading your lab furniture without going over budget.

Adding Casters to Your Laboratory Furniture

Mass spectrometers are heavy. Rearranging your lab can cause damage to these sensitive instruments—not to mention the backs of those who have to lift them. This shortens the lives of the equipment and can cause productivity delays when staff members have to take sick time from work.

If ordering new IonBench dedicated lab furniture (with its accompanying casters) isn’t an option yet, try installing heavy-duty casters on existing lab furniture. Many casters have a weight tolerance of as much as 1,000 pounds, so they should work for most, if not all, of your equipment.

Installing Additional Shelving in Your Lab

One of the common issues many labs face is insufficient storage space. This is a serious problem, especially if you find yourself storing dangerous raw materials on cluttered workspaces.

Rather than inviting serious lab accidents (which can also lead to lost productivity), take steps to create additional storage space in your newest lab configuration.

Sometimes you’ll discover there’s room for an entire new storage unit. Most of the time, however, you’ll need to get creative, taking a hard look at your lab and lab benches to see where you might create room to install additional shelving.

In addition to preventing accidents, clearing your lab workspace provides the added benefit of allowing you to work more ergonomically.

Incrementally Upgrading to High-Quality Lab Furniture

One way to aim for an ideal situation, where your lab is filled with only the safest and most efficient high-quality dedicated lab furniture, is to approach things incrementally.

First, take some time to determine which pieces of lab furniture are the oldest, least efficient, or most dangerous. Perhaps your mass spec lab furniture was bought to hold an older model and now teeters on the brink of collapse with the heavier weight or broader footprint of a more modern or complex instrument. Or maybe your HPLC lab bench can’t be raised or lowered, making for difficult servicing.

In such cases, investing in a single IonBench during each, or every other, budget cycle can gradually modernize your lab with safe and efficient equipment. Heavy-duty casters come standard with our mass spec lab furniture, making benches easy to move around the lab. In addition, IonBenches house three drawers for easily storing materials that are not in use.

Our HPLC bench also comes on casters and can easily be raised or lowered with the touch of a button, allowing you to safely adjust height in order to maintain solvents or inject materials into mass specs with a maximum of efficiency.

For more ideas to help you with your lab upgrading needs, contact us today.


Avoid Complacency with Regular Lab Safety Reminders

don't forget Complacency is an enemy of lab safety. Once you’ve been working in a particular lab for a while, it’s easy to take things for granted—you know the workflow, you develop your routines, and eventually everything you’re doing seems automatic.

While this is a natural human tendency, and not cause for guilt or blame, it also opens the door to lab accidents. Which is why periodic lab safety reminders—even getting back to the very basics—are important to ensure that no one forgets that a lab can be a dangerous place.

Preventing the 4 Most Common Types of Lab Accidents

There are four types of common lab accidents, which can happen in any type of lab environment:

Eye Injuries – Do you sometimes get lazy and not bother to don your safety glasses, perhaps when “just checking up” on something’s progress? Lab safety should always be a primary consideration, regardless of how much time you will spend in the lab.

Eye accidents are the most common of serious injuries; don’t become a statistic. Put on those safety glasses, even if you’re wearing regular glasses, as agents can find lots of real estate between frame and face. Remember that contact lenses never protect your eyes, and can even absorb airborne chemicals, worsening eye injuries.

Glassware Cuts – Many lab professionals can vividly recall doing something foolish in their “younger days,” like forcing glass tubing through a stopper and ending up with broken glass all over their hands. Foolishness may decrease with age, but it increases again with complacency.

Wearing gloves is wise, but it can be a catch-22, as gloves may inhibit the fine dexterity required with certain tasks. Whenever you can, however, do wear gloves.

Also, always keep your mind on the processes taking place in your hands, and don’t try to force anything—ever. If it doesn’t fit, find another solution.

 Chemical Irritation – Another reason to keep those gloves handy is to prevent chemical irritation or burns from accidental exposure. Note that your hands aren’t the only body parts at risk. Dangerous chemicals can also be accidentally inhaled, dropped on exposed arms or legs, or even ingested if you aren’t careful about thoroughly cleaning up after yourself.

Your earliest training in kindergarten is as useful now as ever: “Wash those hands!”

 Heat Burns – Burns are the final type of common injury to take place in a lab environment, and they occur particularly frequently due to lack of careful attention. Forget to tie back long hair, forget glass gets hot, or forget to keep your hands and other body parts away from a Bunsen burner or hot plate and burns are likely to occur. In all of those situations, the operative word is “forget.”

Consciously making the effort to pay attention in the lab is the best preventive measure you can take to enhance lab safety.

Two Additional Lab Safety Reminders

In addition to being aware of the common lab accidents listed above, there are other preventive lab safety measures you should regularly take:

  • Familiarize yourself with every material safety data sheet (MSDS), to remind yourself of potential dangers.
  • Check all lab safety equipment (fire blanket, extinguishers, eyewash, shower) to (1) remind yourself where to go in case of emergency, and (2) make certain that everything is in place and prepared to function properly.

We care about lab safety and have made it a central focus in the development of our IonBenches. To that end, we’ve designed our dedicated lab furniture to limit noise that can impact attention and hamper communication, while also ensuring that each bench and desk is easy to move and rearrange.

If you have other lab safety suggestions, we’re happy to listen and share them. Contact us today to discuss how our IonBench can contribute to a safer environment in your lab.