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.