This is why we continually focus on the importance of keeping noise to a minimum in the lab. Previously we’ve discussed the science behind hearing and the ways noise is measured. Now let’s look at some facts about addressing loud noises, and the lab safety issues associated with each.
Yes, Noise Causes Lab Safety Issues
There are a number of factors that can compromise lab safety, and noise is definitely one of them. In the same way that inadequate lighting or ventilation can contribute to stress and accidents in the lab, so can excessive noise, especially since there is no way to escape the noise and still get your work done.
Research also shows that individuals respond in different ways to varying tonal qualities, which means a noise that may not bother one person can be very distracting to another, inhibiting his or her ability to focus on the task at hand—and if you can’t focus, you’re more likely to make mistakes that lead to lab accidents.
Music Is Not a Solution
Since just about every staff member has a smartphone these days, it would seem an easy fix to simply suggest that lab workers listen to music, or perhaps a “white noise” recording of rain or the seashore, to block out loud lab noises.
The problem with this solution is that in order to hear that music or white noise in a loud workplace, it has to be cranked up to a level of 10-15 dBA over the background noise. In addition to potentially causing staffers hearing damage, this becomes a lab safety issue, since it’s then harder to hear colleagues speaking or respond to dangerous sounds in the lab, such as the pop of something catching fire.
Earplugs Are Not a Solution
If music is not a good lab safety idea, what about earplugs? While these might decrease the volume of sound reaching the wearer’s ears, they bring with them their own set of lab safety problems.
As with music, it becomes difficult for the staffer to hear other sounds in the lab. Earplugs also do not fit every type of ear, and may even cause infections, especially if not regularly replaced (if disposable) or cleaned (if non-disposable). Also, earplugs must be carefully stored and cared for so that they maintain their noise-suppression capabilities.
The Solution Is to Treat Noise at Its Source
The major issue with all of these solutions is that they address loud noises at the receiving end, rather than the source.
Our IonBench integrated noise reduction enclosure tackles noise at the mass spec itself, rather than at the researcher’s ear. By enclosing MS vacuum pumps within the base of our dedicated lab furniture, we decrease the vacuum pump noise by 15 dBA—the same differential that’s needed for music to overcome loud noises in your lab.
This contributes to lab safety on many levels. There’s no need to blast your ears with noise or purchase (and then discard) hundreds of disposable earplugs, and your research lab is quiet enough that people can concentrate on their work and hear each other’s conversations—or emergency warnings—without any difficulty.
To learn more about the lab safety advantages of the IonBench, contact us today.