Monthly Archives: October 2015

Lab Safety: Noise Reduction Checklist

lab-safety-noise-reduction-checklistNoise is everywhere in our modern, industrialized world. From ambulance sirens in the night to the music coming from our personal headsets, our ears are assaulted every hour of the day and night. And the impact is real: The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has estimated that about 15 percent of working-age Americans have developed high-frequency hearing loss because of noise exposure at work or during leisure activities.

These facts stress the importance of lab safety rules. Every research facility must include noise reduction efforts. To help, we’re providing you a noise reduction checklist to prevent hearing loss and noise-related health issues from occurring in your lab.

Noise Reduction Checklist

Here are some simple steps to take to ensure the best possible work environment in your laboratory by keeping noise in check.

  • Make sure any controlled-temperature room compressor is moved to a remote location. Work with your maintenance supervisor to figure out the most practical way of keeping any compressors away from the sensitive ears of your staff.
  • Remove noise-producing equipment from your research lab whenever possible. Set up a storage room nearby and keep your freezers, refrigerators, centrifuges, and incubators there. This will separate the active research space from a main source of noisy equipment. Researchers can easily step into that storage room, grab what they need (or load up the centrifuge), then move back to the main lab.
  • Obviously, there are some machines that must stay in the research lab itself. Mass spectrometers, for example, can’t be efficiently used if they’re completely isolated. This is where our dedicated lab furniture comes in. Our IonBench MS features an integrated vacuum-pump noise enclosure that guarantees noise suppression of 75 percent, which goes a long way toward keeping your ears safe as you work in your lab.
  • Treat your lab walls and ceiling to a makeover with acoustic tiles. These will help absorb the sound being generated in your lab rather than bouncing it back into the room. There are many different types of sound-absorbing materials now available on the market, so invite in an expert to help determine the best solution for your lab situation.
  • Provide lab-safety-rated earplugs or earmuffs for everyone who works in your lab, especially in labs that are unusually noisy.
  • Don’t forget to create and post a lab safety noise policy that informs workers of the steps you are taking and clearly outlines required actions they must take to reduce noise levels in the lab (shut the noise-baffling doors to your dedicated lab furniture, for example).

Lab Safety Noise Issues Are Not Just About Hearing Loss

It’s also important to remember that noise has a greater impact on lab workers’ health than simply contributing to hearing loss. According to OSHA, lab noise usually isn’t loud enough to permanently harm one’s hearing. However, the noise level in a lab can easily make it more difficult for colleagues to hear one another, whether they are talking in person or on the phone. This increases the possibility of misunderstandings, which can lead to errors in lab protocol and possibly even accidents or injuries.

Additional problems that can impact researchers and lab techs as a result of prolonged exposure to excessive lab noise include stress and anxiety, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), hypertension (high blood pressure), gastrointestinal problems, and even chronic fatigue.

These health hazards not only threaten the well-being of your staff, but also can potentially reduce productivity. As a result, secondary lab safety issues, such as inattention and carelessness due to tiredness or distraction, can also become a danger.

Find Out More

Whether you’re building a lab from scratch, undertaking a renovation, or simply taking steps to address lab safety issues, IonBench dedicated lab furniture helps keep the results flowing and the ears of your staff safe from harm. Contact us today to find out how IonBench can improve the efficiency of your lab and the safety of your employees.

Using Mass Spectrometry to Accurately Assess Painkiller Use

mass-spectrometry-painkillerPain treatment compliance is a major issue for physicians who prescribe opiates to patients with chronic pain. While more powerful painkillers have enabled millions of suffering people to live pain-free, functional lives, they have also opened the door to opiate abuse. In fact, in 2011 alone, opiate overdoses took the lives of 17,000 Americans.

Clearly, the ability to monitor patients’ use of these painkillers is critical for avoiding addiction and death, as well as understanding how well those painkillers are doing their jobs. Mass spectrometry is part of the solution. Labs that can quickly and accurately test patient samples are key for catching opiate abuse before the consequences become life-threatening.

It’s Not Just About a Positive Reading

Of course, there are relatively simple and inexpensive ways to test whether a patient sample contains an opiate. For example, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) can screen for drug compounds without much development time. However, ELISA tests are not available for all drug compounds, and they only test for the presence of an opiate, not the quantity of a particular opiate in a patient’s system.

There are other issues with these tests. They cannot distinguish between compounds of the same drug class, such as codeine and heroin. False negatives and positives also occur with ELISA tests at an astounding rate of 20 percent.

Getting Down to the Specifics

Another problem with prescribing opiates is that they are seldom taken in the absence of other medications. Increasingly, patients with chronic pain are on a cocktail of both prescriptions and non-prescription compounds, each with its own side effects and potential matrix interferences.

Some medications may even decrease the effectiveness of the opiates in question—but there’s no way for a physician to know exactly what is in a patient’s bloodstream without extremely sophisticated tests.

Using Mass Spectrometry and HPLCs to Keep Up with Demand

The only certain method for identifying both the specific compounds and the amount of each in a particular patient sample is with the use of mass spectrometry, usually in conjunction with an HPLC or UPLC.

Another problem facing labs is the volume of patient samples. Some days there are thousands of samples in queue at both clinical and hospital labs. Working LC/MS/MS allows for both fast run times and reproducible results on the LC side, while the MS can accurately detect each individual compound in a sample.

Using Dedicated Lab Furniture for Maximum Flexibility

So why are we talking about this important use of mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography? We believe that a lab is most efficient when its machine components are both stable and interchangeable. The best way to keep those patient samples flowing through your process is to link LCs and mass specs and keep them working.

But machines break down. It’s a lot easier to replace an HPLC or MS if an extra one is kept nearby on one of our IonBenches, so that these heavy and (in the case of the HPLC) top-heavy machines can easily be wheeled into place. Downtime is also minimized because the height of the HPLC-UPLC bench can be electronically adjusted in 1-millimeter increments, making it easy to match up with any MS.

There is no question that new and improved uses for mass spectrometry continue to arise. Get the most out of your MS and your HPLC, no matter what you’re testing, by contacting us today. Learn more about how our IonBenches can facilitate the most efficient use of your lab investments.

The Benefits of Mobility and Going Sideways

dedicated-lab-furniture-hplcPreviously, we talked about how we’ve taken our dedicated lab furniture to new heights—and lows—so you can more easily and safely refill your HPLC or UPLC solvent reservoir. Now we want to move sideways. You see, the height of HPLC and UPLC machines isn’t the only benefit of dedicated lab furniture. Mobility can also be a good thing.

The Problem

Does your lab have dedicated HPLC’s for every mass spectrometer that requires one? If you do, great. But it’s a luxury, both in terms of cost and space that most labs can’t afford. There are also times when you may want to run the same sample through multiple mass specs.  Naturally, this means that you’ve got to transport the HPLC with its sample from one MS to another without compromising the resolution.

Inconvenience and Safety

It’s impractical to think you could pick up the HPLC or UPLC and carry it from one MS to another. At 60 to 70 kilograms, even with help, they’re likely to strain your back and arms, or worse.

Then there’s the issue of safety and damage. Moving an HPLC or the bench it’s on could cause it to tip over—onto yourself, your colleague, or the floor, in which case you’re out an expensive instrument and fighting considerable downtime as you locate a replacement.

The Solution

This is why a dedicated lab bench like the IonBench LC with lockable casters is a must purchase. With a quick and easy flick of your toes, you can release the bench and move your HPLC around the lab with ease.

And because those casters do lock, you can be certain there won’t be any unintended movement of your instrument once it has reached its destination. Also, this piece of dedicated lab furniture features a base that is wider than the work platform, making it extremely stable and unlikely to tip over as you’re connecting it to the next MS.

Two Added Benefits

One-hundred-percent uptime is, of course, the gold standard for any lab. The reality? Something less, of course. Things happen. Machines break down, columns fail, or tests take longer, which often means you can’t get your next series started on time.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have a backup HPLC or UPLC available (perhaps a still-functioning older model), stashed away somewhere handy. But it’s only handy if you can move it without causing lab safety issues. If it’s kept on one of our IonBenches, then it’ll be easy to move out of storage and into the working lab if a problem arises with one of your primary machines.

Also, as we’ve mentioned before, all mass specs are not the same. If you are feeding one sample into multiple mass specs, you might find that those exit and entry points aren’t aligned. With an IonBench LC, you can easily raise or lower your HPLC in 1-millimeter increments in order to perfectly align the column effluent with the source of the next MS.

If you’re curious about how an investment in dedicated lab furniture can enhance your lab safety record while keeping your uptime as close to 100 percent as possible, fill out our quote request today to learn more about the IonBench LC.

The Highs and Lows of HPLC Lab Safety

lab-safety-hplcWe’ve all done it. Whether it’s the result of trimming a tree in the backyard or lifting a liter of methanol into the top of an HPLC, at one point or another we’ve all felt the pain that comes with pulling a muscle from reaching higher than we should.

It gets worse, of course, if it happens at work and someone ends up not with just a sore shoulder, but also a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to the lost work time and paperwork, you end up with all sorts of lab safety experts telling you how to do your job and run your lab.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for this. We created our series of dedicated lab furniture to address real-world problems, and this is one of them. Rather than lifting solvents, why not lower your HPLC or UPLC?

OSHA Lab Safety Recommendations

Before we explain our solution, let’s point out that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have specific lifting regulations, but has made some intuitive recommendations about safe lifting practices. It suggests that whenever you need to lift something, you keep the vertical distance between mid-thigh and shoulder height. If you lift that liter of solvent from below your waist, you put stress on your legs, knees, and back. If you lift it above your shoulders, you put stress on your upper back, shoulders, and arms—and it’s just a matter of time until someone gets hurt.

HPLC and UPLC Realities

The problem is that your machines aren’t short. You’re working with HPLCs and UPLCs that can be three feet tall. Add to that the fact that they’re placed on lab benches that are themselves three feet tall, and you’ve got a solvent reservoir that’s six feet off the ground. Unfortunately, most lab techs aren’t retired basketball players who stand seven feet tall. This means many lab techs can’t see into the reservoir, much less safely replenish it with dangerous chemicals.

Everyday Solutions

Lab workers have come up with ways to deal with this, of course. Most often, they use a stool or stepladder. But stepping up on one of those with a heavy glass bottle of solvent puts you in a precarious position, and a slight shift in balance could send everything toppling over, and someone to the emergency room.

Other workers decide to ignore lab safety and simply lift those dangerous chemicals over their heads, inviting a buffered methanol or THF spill to the face in addition to a wrenched shoulder.

An Innovative Solution

For these reasons we solved the solvent lab safety problem at another level entirely. Rather than raising the lab tech to the reservoir level, why not lower the reservoir to the lab tech level? Our IonBench LC elevator benches electronically lower themselves an entire foot, giving a lab tech of average height easy access to the reservoir and a safe height from which to fill it.

An Added Benefit

Our creative solution has an added benefit in addition to lab safety. You want to align your HPLC or UPLC as closely as possible with your mass spectrometer in order to minimize diffusion. Our LC elevator bench rises and lowers in 1-millimeter increments so that you can easily align the effluent point of the HPLC column for the most efficient introduction of your sample to the source of the mass spec.

So if you’re ready to lift—or lower(!)—your lab safety to new heights, request a quote today to learn more about how our LC elevator bench can improve your own lab’s safety and efficiency.