How Even Moderate Noise Can Impact Lab Safety

Most researchers know that labs can be noisy. Between the sounds of the various instruments in the lab, other machinery, multiple conversations, HVAC systems, and other sounds, it can be difficult to hear yourself think, much less the soft “pop” that precedes a sudden lab safety issue or accident. But that’s not all. It turns out that even moderate noise levels can compromise lab safety, according to an Australian researcher.

Why Does Moderate Noise Matter?

Most work spaces tend to focus on the lab safety hazards that arise when noise is technically loud enough to cause physical damage to our ears. Certainly there are specific decibel measurements that, if exceeded in a lab environment, will have a physical impact on one’s hearing.

As part of last year’s Hearing Awareness Week, however, Catherine McMahon, head of audiology at Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub, announced “Moderate [noise] levels which may not be damaging to hearing can increase stress, decrease motivation and therefore reduce workplace productivity.”

What Is Moderate Noise?

In terms of lab safety, what constitutes moderate noise can be subjective, which makes it more difficult for employers to address. Moreover, the trend toward open, collaborative workplaces, including modern offices and many labs, means that conversations and other everyday sounds from adjacent workstations are more prevalent than ever—and increasingly being recognized as potential contributors to noise safety problems. But each situation is different.

“Noise is a subjective parameter; therefore we need to assess how an individual reacts to sound and determine its effects on distractibility, stress and productivity,” said Professor McMahon. “Speech from an adjacent cubicle can be considered annoying if it is distracting others from working, which is not simply a matter of the level of an individual’s voice.”

When Annoyance Becomes a Lab Safety Concern

We may think that annoyance is simply something we must accept when working with others. However, when researchers are exposed to annoying noise on a daily basis, stress symptoms can develop. As we’ve discussed before, such stress can lead to sleep loss, cardiovascular disease and a host of related symptoms.

Unfortunately, commonly used remedies will not work in a lab situation. In an office setting, earplugs or music are often recommended to block out annoying noise, but in a lab, those solutions just aren’t as practical. For example, you need to be able to hear certain sounds or colleagues’ warnings in the event a problem arises. If you block out all noise, you will block out the sounds you most need to hear in case of an emergency or accident.

Addressing Noise Safety at the Source

Addressing noise safety concerns is a primary reason for the development of our IonBench MS. With its specially designed enclosures, we have reduced vacuum pump noise by a guaranteed 15 dBA—a 75 percent reduction. This allows researchers to work collaboratively, right next to the bench, without needing to raise their voices in a way that would annoy colleagues at other workstations. In this way, our dedicated lab furniture becomes a key component of an effective lab safety protocol.

To learn more about IonBench and our commitment to a low-stress and low-annoyance work environment, contact us today.

Mass Spec Lab Safety: Electrical Hazards

Electricity represents both a necessity and a danger in every lab. In this second part of our “back to basics” mass spec safety series, we review more of the various types of lab safety issues one can encounter when operating mass spec technology.

In part one, we covered mechanical hazards. This time around, we will discuss the electrical hazards associated with mass spectrometry.

Internal Voltage Hazards

When functioning properly, some areas of mass spectrometers can expose operators to lethal voltage levels. High voltages can remain within a mass spec even when it is powered off, and capacitors can remain charged even though the instrument has been disconnected from all power sources.

As your MS literature undoubtedly says, do not use this instrument “in a manner not prescribed.” If your mass spec is not operating properly, do not take it apart to investigate it yourself. Call in either the professionals who manufactured your MS or a qualified repair technician.

Lab Safety Interlocks and Shields

Because of the danger of such high voltages, mass spectrometers have protective covers or shields to prevent lab techs from accessing the ion source probes. Do not power up or operate your MS unless those protective shields have been properly installed. Interlocks have also been integrated into your mass spec as a lab safety feature to prevent electrical shock. Do not override those interlocks.

When it’s time for routine maintenance, disconnect the ion source from the mass spec. Removing the ion-source housing will disable the high-voltage connection. Beware, however: As mentioned earlier, MS capacitors can remain charged even when your mass spec is disconnected from its power source.

Grounding Hazards

The mass spectrometer was developed long before grounded electrical outlets were required (and hopefully none of your mass specs are that old), but it would never be wise to operate your modern MS today without a correctly installed protective earth conductor.

Always have your electrical outlets checked by a qualified electrician before installing a mass spectrometer and make certain that the protective earth system maintains its integrity. (In fact, it’s an excellent idea to have all outlets in your lab checked at the time of installation, as you may need to rearrange your lab at some point in the future and plug your MS into a different outlet.) Operating an ungrounded mass spec effectively turns the entire instrument into a lab safety hazard.

Electrical Circuit Protection and Hazards

Your mass spec has been designed for operation with a specific electrical mains supply. If you operate the instrument with an improper mains or insufficient circuit protection, multiple lab safety issues will arise: You could damage the electrical wiring system. You could cause an electrical fire—possibly within the walls of your lab, where it would be extremely difficult to suppress. And you could damage your expensive mass spectrometer.

Before installing or operating any mass spectrometer, make certain that the branch circuit protection satisfies the requirements of your MS system. Also confirm that your mass spec voltage matches the mains supply coming into your lab.

Mass Spec Safety Starts with You

Electricity is a powerful resource—and with any power comes real danger. As we’ve said throughout this series, complacency is itself a lab safety hazard. Do not take electricity for granted. Periodically return to the basics and remind yourself of electricity’s potential hazards in a lab setting.

For help in grounding your mass spectrometer on the most stable platform possible, learn more about our IonBench MS, or contact us at 1-888-669-1233 with any questions you may have about mass spec safety or our dedicated lab furniture.

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.


Mass Spec Lab Design Trends: Supporting a Collaborative Workplace

07Proper lab design can be critical for successful research. Over the years, many mass spec lab design trends have come and gone.

It’s why we think it’s important to stay up on the latest trends unfolding in the field—and it also gives us the opportunity to mention how well our dedicated lab furniture can fit into labs designed using the latest ideas.

Collaboration Is Key

These days, there’s a definite move toward more collaboration. Historically, facilities tended toward a siloed type of mass spec lab design. Today, however, “open labs” are increasingly the trend.

They allow for team-based work, problem-solving, and a more social approach to lab culture. One reason for this trend is that many millennials have been taught to approach problem-solving as a team, bouncing ideas off each other. Open labs help support this methodology.

Retaining Some Closed Mass Spec Lab Design Options

While the open lab is helpful in many cases, there are other situations when closed labs are more practical and efficient. For example, when large amounts of equipment dominate, such as in many mass spec labs, it can be more cost efficient to opt for a traditional “closed” lab design, surrounded by open spaces that allow for shared use of the equipment.

Some procedures, such as glass washing, tissue culturing, and dark room work, are also better suited to closed labs. Quiet, enclosed spaces tend to be more efficient for data analysis and report writing as well.

Addressing Energy Demand

Another trend being addressed by the latest types of lab designs are “green” or environmental concerns. Research labs typically use a good deal of resources, consuming as much as five times more energy and water than say a teaching space.

As a result, implementing environmentally sustainable designs and gaining LEED certification can be especially beneficial, potentially saving money in utility and operations costs.

Flexibility Remains Important

For years, we’ve been talking about the importance of flexibility in lab design. In fact, adaptability seems to be an ever-more-valuable aspect of mass spec lab design. Whether it’s due to the growth of interdisciplinary sciences or a desired decrease in long-term renovation costs (and lab downtime), designing a mass spec lab space that can be easily reconfigured is a key component for success.

One innovation that serves this type of flexibility is the overhead service carrier. By supplying everything from air and gas to localized exhaust and power, overhead carriers allow for lab benches to be reconfigured easily while still connecting to critical components. Power trunks can also be installed in each service carrier, allowing a mass spectrometer to be placed anywhere within a particular lab space.

Lab benches such as our IonBench MS are key players in this trend toward flexibility. When mass spectrometers are placed in open lab environments, it’s critical to keep them quiet. Our roughing pump enclosures reduce noise by 75 percent, enabling collaborative conversations to more easily take place. In addition, our solidly built, lockable casters make moving massive equipment a much easier and safer prospect.

To learn more about how our IonBenches can support integration of the latest modern lab design trends, contact us today.


New Mass Spec Applications Reveal Our Skin in New Ways

skinFollowers of this blog know how excited we get about the many ways mass spec technology transforms our world. The latest mass spec applications are revealing new things about something we tend to take for granted: our skin. Using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, researchers have developed a protocol that will bring new advances to studies on human skin, as well as the surface areas of any living being, paving the way for many practical applications.

Introducing 3D Molecular Cartography

This new protocol provides important breakthroughs on two different fronts. In the past, skin studies generally focused on a small area of skin. The new protocol, on the other hand, can look at skin over the entire body. For their seminal study, researchers took samples from 400 skin sites, each on two human bodies, one female and the other male. The study also broke new ground by focusing on both skin chemistry and microbial populations. Previously, studies tended to treat these separately. The kind of diagnostic power needed to gather, analyze, compare, and interpret the results from this vast amount of data was made possible because of mass spectrometry. LC–MS technology enabled the performance of advanced metabolomics while tandem mass spectrometry was utilized for molecular identification. The final product was a 3D model of the sampled human skin, reproducible in any mass spec laboratory.

Initial Research Findings and Implications

Analysis of these hundreds of skin samples revealed that, even three days after application, molecules from hygiene and beauty products, such as sunscreen, remained on the skin. Furthermore, compounds such as plastics and clothing were also detected and analyzed using these mass spec applications. Food components handled by the study participants were also determined to have become part of the skin’s chemical composition. Clearly, this new mass spec protocol has the potential to support investigation into a wide variety of factors that influence skin ecosystems, including susceptibility to disease, personal hygiene, and the impact of clothing and manufactured products on the skin’s environment. Further studies hold promise to map the complex interactions between humans and the microbial world as well. Moreover, 3D cartography also has the potential to aid in comprehension of such complex data by both researchers and the public.

Diverse Potential Mass Spec Applications

There are a host of possible directions these new mass spec applications can take. Being able to determine where molecules linger on a body can assist with forensics, while molecular mapping of plants can be used to determine the spread of pesticides and other substances across agricultural fields. The cosmetics industry is already taking note of the potential for researching the impact of various products on human skin. The sunscreen samples found in the research cited above would be of particular interest—and perhaps concern. New mass spec technology and applications arise every year, and we are thrilled to support such critical work in a very literal fashion, through our customizable IonBench MS and IonBench HPLC-UHPLC cart. No matter what your field of research, your mass spec applications will be aided by standing on a firm foundation. Contact us today to learn more about our mass spec lab benches.

Don’t Let Lab Configuration Become a Game of Twister

TwisterChances are good that you inherited your lab space and didn’t have much say in how it was set up. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who has the luxury of designing a brand-new space from the very beginning, you’re stuck with what you have. Furthermore, every lab is different; you can’t just copy someone else’s lab configuration because even if you’ve got a room with the same shape and size, the power outlets won’t be in the same place and you likely won’t have the same MS model as other labs.

Configuring your lab can become a greater challenge with every passing year as you take on additional equipment and projects. Getting work done in a crowded, haphazardly laid out environment is like playing a game of Twister. This is why the ability to customize your lab configuration really matters.

The Safety Aspects of Lab Configuration

Anyone who’s played a game of Twister knows that when any configuration gets too complicated, the system, like the game’s players, collapses. While that’s cause for lighthearted laughter in a children’s game, it can have a much more serious impact on your lab. The spatial limitations posed by most labs present a difficult challenge when you’re setting up your furniture layout in an existing space or need to add new equipment.

Mass spectrometry requires you to have a lab configuration that safely contains roughing pumps, holds the mass spec itself in a way that you (and service techs) can easily and safely access it, and houses your necessary peripheral equipment.

Questions to Ask When Configuring Your Lab

We’ve worked with a lot of lab managers and have seen a wide variety of lab spaces. Over the years, we’ve developed a list of questions that will help as you prepare to reconfigure your lab to accommodate new equipment or lines of work.

  • How many pieces of equipment do you/will you have?
  • How do they need to be connected?
  • How large is each piece of equipment?
  • What peripherals need to be connected with each piece?
  • What types of connections does piece of equipment need (power, hoses, tubing, etc.)?
  • Will hoses and tubes need to go out through the back of the bench or down through the surface?

Getting it Right with Customizable Lab Benches

Fortunately, we can help. Our dedicated lab furniture is customizable, which allows you to make the most of your limited space. In response to the needs addressed by these questions, we’ve developed IonBenches that are strong enough to hold the largest and most complex of mass specs, can be drilled with holes right where you need them for any type of connection, and are built with strong caster wheels that allow you to rearrange your lab configuration each time your line of inquiry takes a new turn.

Our IonBenches also work well together. We can manufacture mirror-image benches, where enclosures can match up with each other, allowing proper integration between mass spec and HPLC systems.

Don’t get pulled into a game of Twister. You might consult with a cabinet maker about the best configuration for new cabinets in your kitchen, so why not let us guide you with solutions to maximize space for the best possible lab configuration?

Contact us today at 888-669-1233 to discuss how to make the most of the lab space you have.

2018 Lab Safety Goal: Recognize Lab Noise as Serious Risk

RiskWe recently shared a disturbing report about the major gap between organizational culture and lab safety realities. We’ve all seen instances where company culture doesn’t exactly promote an environment where safety protocols can realistically be followed.

Petrotechnics surveyed over 200 senior leaders in the hydrocarbon industry and found that they held grave concerns over the lack of safety follow-through in their organizations. While company literature said all the right things about making safety a priority, the organizational procedures and practices did not hold up their end of the bargain when it came to following through on those priorities.

Most worrisome was the finding that the corporate culture in the majority of these organizations was actually resistant to implementation of process safety and risk management (PSM) procedures. This resistance is not necessarily rooted in carelessness or even maliciousness—rather, it is rooted in the natural tendency for corporations to drive productivity.

Let’s take this insight one step further and focus on a key concern of ours: lab noise reduction.

The Case for Lab Noise Reduction

A noisy lab is not just a threat to the ears of those who work there—though that is well-proven and certainly a necessary priority—it also linked with a range of diverse health issues. These include an increase in stress (with all its symptoms, including lack of sleep, short-temperedness, and an inability to concentrate, all of which can impact the interpretation of results in a critical lab procedure), coronary disease, hypertension and even our brain’s ability to process information correctly (again potentially leading to faulty test reporting).

Lab noise can interfere with critical communications, making it a safety hazard in a much different way. A noisy work environment makes verbal communications very difficult. And when lab personnel are dealing with potentially hazardous materials, there is very little room for error. What if a lab tech was to mishear instructions for handling a certain compound because the noise level in the lab was too high? This mishap could result in cross contamination, chemical burns, or even fires or explosions.

Integrating Lab Noise Reduction into Your Organizational Culture

We believe that lab noise reduction is a key ingredient in the lab safety recipe. Too many people, at all levels of an organization, can take their hearing and health for granted, choosing instead to focus on preventing the more spectacular lab accidents that make the news.

Noise doesn’t seem like an immediate threat or a potential major hazard—its impact is, however, insidious and lasting.

It’s why we’ve integrated lab noise reduction into our IonBench MS, which isolates up to three vacuum pumps in specially designed chambers of our custom designed lab furniture. With a lab noise reduction of over 75%, this dedicated lab furniture will minimize lab safety issues and facilitate efficient and accurate results by allowing everyone in the lab to hear each other, communicate clearly, and focus on research rather than PSM.

The more aware lab managers are to seemingly nonthreatening safety issues, the better the overall productivity of a lab and well-being of everyone there. We encourage you, and your team to embrace an integrated organizational culture that pays heed to even seemingly benign risks like lab noise. A well-thought-out lab noise reduction strategy can be a key element in effective lab safety culture. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.

PSM Study Reveals Concerning Lack of Lab Safety Culture

Lab WorkersWe recently came across an unsettling report that bears sharing. The source is a Petrotechnics survey conducted in the summer of 2017 on process safety and risk management (PSM). Over 200 senior hydrocarbon-industry leaders with responsibility for process safety, asset integrity and operational risk management, responded with a frank assessment of the safety culture—or lack thereof—within their organizations.

While these insights are taken specifically from the chemical processing industry, we think the significant findings could help remind us all of the importance of supporting lab safety.

Aligning Goals with Plans and Procedures

Much of what concerned us with this report was a significant gap between goals stated in various companies’ literature and the presence of actual plans and procedures that would fulfill those goals in their practices.

While almost all companies had goals related to risk reduction and supporting safety performance, 61% of those surveyed believe their organizations do not have sufficient safety indicators or safety performance measurements. There was also concern expressed by 54% of respondents that PSM is not incorporated into programs and strategies for operational excellence. Specifically, those respondents felt that there was a lack of operative, real-time solutions designed to monitor and manage divergences from expectations or performance standards.

Furthermore, the greatest source of resistance to PSM implementation listed was organizational culture, with an overwhelming 86% listing this as an issue. Fully three quarters of respondents listed maintenance and internal procedures as other hindrances to a fully functioning PSM environment.

Speaking the Truth about PSM Issues

The anonymously conducted survey allowed respondents to freely express their opinions. Several anonymous responses indicated that companies often value productivity over safety.

Specific quotes are telling:

“Process safety is specialized knowledge, not typically understood by operations and maintenance, leading to implementation gaps.”

 “Production takes priority over safety, which often leads to shortcuts and safety incidents, despite corporate safety policies.”

 “Corporate lip service to PSM policies that are not backed up with effective and efficient planned preventative maintenance.”

Particularly significant was that only 6% of respondents indicated that critical safety maintenance was up to date. Yikes.

Making Lab Safety a Priority at All Levels

This study hits close to home. We’ve all seen it before: People lose sight of the importance of planned safety procedures that are regularly tested and implemented. They instead focus on the end result, forgetting the importance of working within lab safety parameters.

As labs are renovated or expanded, project goals evolve, and managers can easily forget the importance of purchasing equipment and lab furniture that will reduce safety risks. Attention that should be paid to the enhancement of lab safety becomes focused elsewhere, and impactful practices and products are overlooked.

Stocking up on safety gear, maintaining a clean and organized space, minimizing noise to ensure clear communication, battling vibration to protect lab equipment—these details are still critical to lab safety.

Adopting a “safety first” mentality is integral and backed by the overwhelming consensus of those 86% responders who believe that an organization’s culture has the greatest impact on PSM. When you’re running a busy lab, and must meet budget and production quotas, it can be difficult to balance safety into the equation. We can help you get on your way to a lab that’s designed with safety in mind, just give us a call.