Monthly Archives: August 2015

Time to Revisit Your Lab Design? Include Dedicated Lab Furniture in the Solution

Dedicated Lab FurnitureThe concept of “continuous improvement” can be a tricky one for many lab managers and lead researchers. While a regular review of workplace processes is always a good idea, sometimes it can seem as if all your time is being spent in review processes of one type or another, instead of research.

On the other hand, the research lab is a dynamic and constantly changing environment, and sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to the impact one lab design change can have on other existing processes and protocols.

This is why it’s a good idea to regularly review your lab—everything from staffing levels to the suitability of your dedicated lab furniture—in order to make sure it is operating at peak efficiency. The case study below illustrates how taking the time for such assessments can benefit a lab’s ongoing effectiveness.

Lab Design Case Study: Holy Spirit Health System

The growing Holy Spirit Health System in Pennsylvania thought it had an issue with insufficient staffing levels. This was exacerbated by the fact that skilled lab professionals were difficult to find, which left Holy Spirit short-handed. Workflow problems were surfacing, along with issues in turnaround times, training, and competency. Fortunately, they decided to address the efficiency issues first, using the popular LEAN program to help assess the situation and come up with optimal solutions.

What they found was surprising. By addressing inefficiencies in lab design, maximizing resources, and utilizing automation, they were able to address the workflow issues and improve turnaround times without the need to hire any additional staff. While leadership had assumed there were inefficiencies in the system, they’d been too close to the day-to-day operations to be able to see the lab design shortcomings for themselves.

By simply redesigning the lab to address workflow issues and bringing in one additional machine to automate a common process, Holy Spirit’s hospital labs improved time from order to collection and decreased the rate of repeat blood draws, which improved customer satisfaction.

Is Your Lab Ready for Change?

The Holy Spirit Hospital labs are not alone in seeking to improve efficiency. Many research labs around the country are embracing redesigns in an effort to get the most out of existing resources without increasing costs. Some are even fortunate enough to be planning a new lab design from scratch.

Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s critical to evaluate every aspect of your lab. Not just staffing, but also each piece of equipment you use and the dedicated lab furniture supporting it. Using the right furniture will improve efficiency by making access easier, reducing noise, and protecting equipment, as well as eliminating the mistakes that frustrate staff and decrease customer satisfaction.

So if you’re ready to do more with less, practice some of that continuous improvement by taking a good look at your lab and its processes. Whether you can do that yourself or wish to call in some professionals to assist you, the results will be worth the time and effort. A fresh viewpoint from consultants who have seen other lab design scenarios can be helpful in understanding how your workflow is getting bottled up and your turnaround times are stalling.

To learn more about what to consider when assessing dedicated lab furniture in your continuous improvement review, contact us today.

Lab Safety Reminders at the Start of a New Academic Year

lab-safety-remindersThe new academic year is upon us, and while not all research labs are housed at, or sponsored by, academic institutions, now is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the importance of lab safety.

Your lab is always a potentially dangerous work environment. You likely work with flammable, corrosive, or toxic compounds, many of which will easily react with other materials in your lab. Even if you don’t, there’s still the chance that you and your colleagues work with infectious and pathogenic organisms, or radioactive isotopes. As a Gilda Radner character often said, “It’s always something.”

Fortunately, if you carefully train all your new and returning students and lab assistants, have the right engineering controls in place, and take appropriate administrative precautions, you can keep the lab-safety odds in your favor. If you don’t, well–here’s the story of two specific lab accidents that serve as potent reminders of the need to follow all lab safety precautions and keep laboratory furniture in good working order.

With the right gear and safety measures in place, you can prevent something similar from happening in your lab. (For more lab safety information, take a look at the 12 most common laboratory safety problems, as determined by the University of Texas at Austin.)

Princeton University Lab Accident

In May of 2012, a post-doc student mistakenly added solvent waste to nitric acid while conducting an experiment. The unplanned reaction caused a spark and smoke, destroyed the container and released a plume of vapor into the air. When the container broke, some of the chemicals also landed on and burned the face of the researcher.

Fortunately for all involved, the student was performing her experiment under a vent hood, which was operational at the time. This meant that most of the smoke and vapors were quickly and safely removed from the lab. A second student researcher and a security guard were treated for minor chemical irritations—the guard developed a mild rash—but their exposure might have been much worse if the experiment had not taken place under the vent hood.

Veterans Affairs Lab Death

While the large number of student researchers at college and university labs makes them particularly vulnerable to safety issues, accidents can happen in any lab. Also in May of 2012, a researcher died while studying Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that causes roughly 1,000 cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S. each year.

An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed that a major contributor to researcher Richard Din’s death was the fact that he’d been working on an active, vaccine-resistant strain in the open rather than in a biosafety cabinet.

OSHA concluded that the Department of Veterans Affairs had “failed to supervise and protect these workers adequately.”

Maintaining Lab Safety with Dedicated Lab Furniture

While we don’t carry vent hoods or biosafety cabinets, we do craft high-quality lab benches with lab safety in mind.

Whether you need a strong, stable bench to counter the height and weight of your equipment, or a well-designed vacuum pump enclosure to reduce noise without dangerous heat buildup, our dedicated lab furniture represents an important investment in the safety of your researchers and staff.

Contact us today to learn more about how our IonBenches can reduce the risk of accidents in your lab.