Incorporating Operating Expenses into Your Mass Spec Budget

OPEXWhether you’re adding your first mass spec to a brand-new lab or simply incorporating additional equipment into an expanding facility, you need to plan for both capital and operating expenses. We’ve talked about capital expenses, which include not only the machine itself, but also appropriate lab preparation, dedicated lab furniture, and one-time purchases of necessary accessories. Here, we will take a closer look at the accompanying operating expenses you need to include in your mass spec budget.

Consumables and Accessories

When it comes to a mass spec usage budget, most managers think first about consumables. This is appropriate, but can vary widely, depending on the number of samples being analyzed each month and the type and nature of those samples.

Gases and Solvents: Having enough gases and high-quality solvents on hand is critical for the smooth operation of any lab.

Cleaning supplies: You will need to remember to include cleanup materials in your mass spec budget as well, because, as we all know, accidents happen. For an additional level of lab safety, and as a way to cut down on damage control costs, you can prevent spills and injuries by investing in elevating dedicated lab furniture.

Accessories: There are many types of operational accessories that you will need to include in your mass spec budget. Some are disposable, or one-time use only and will need to be replaced regularly:

    • Chromatography columns
    • Ion samplers
    • Skimmer and sample cones
    • Dust filters
    • Flow interfaces, controllers and tubes
    • Autosamplers
    • Sample handling kits
    • Assay kits
    • Slit systems
    • Pump and anode tubing
    • Nebulizers
    • Connector kits

Machine Service and Maintenance

Regular maintenance is critical to minimizing downtime and insuring lab safety. This is a significant annual expense, which can run between five and ten percent of the initial cost of the MS. Tuning and calibration must be performed by licensed service technicians. These expenses will be lower if you have invested in dedicated lab furniture to support your mass spec. Furniture like our IonBench MS uses high-quality springs to minimize the amount of vibration and other movement that can shorten the life of MS components such as turbopumps.

Additional Mass Spec Budget Costs

There are a variety of other costs associated with operating any MS that might not be so obvious when you are setting up a mass spec budget for the first time.

Training: First, you need to train all users on each type of mass spec to maximize efficiency and promote lab safety. The level of training needed will vary, depending on the rate of lab worker turnover and the sophistication of the operations being performed.

Software: Second, you will need to keep appropriate accompanying software up to date.

Energy costs: Third, don’t forget the significant costs for electricity, not just for the mass spec, but also for ancillary machinery needed to keep your lab cool and safe.

If you want to run a safe and productive lab, it’s important to plan ahead. Consider both your capital and operating costs and configure your lab in the most efficient manner possible. Keep sufficient consumables on hand—safely housed in dedicated lab furniture to prevent lab safety accidents—and make sure to rotate stock regularly to maintain the freshness of your materials. Should you have any questions about how our IonBench products can help cut down on your operating expenses, please contact us today.

Capital Expenses: Five Components to Your Mass Spec Budget

2018 BudgetSometimes budgeting can be especially tricky. This is most true when contemplating the capital budget. When you buy most equipment, you hope—and plan—that it’s going to last quite a few years.

So, when it’s time to expand your lab or replace an outdated MS model, you’ll want to make sure you’ve put together a comprehensive budget that accounts for all foreseeable expenses. Trust us, you’ll be glad you took the time to submit a thorough and accurate request for funding the first time around.

Five Components of Your Mass Spec Budget

There are five categories you need to consider in crafting a complete mass spec budget. (If you’re looking for tips on other types of preparation, we’ve covered that too.)

  1. The Equipment Itself - Naturally, your new mass spectrometer is going to be your primary expense. While the MS itself is important, also be sure to calculate the cost of shipping, delivery, and safely getting that mass spec into place once it arrives.
     
  2. Mass Spec Accessories - What types of technologies will need to interface with your new MS? Is your current computer up to the task? Do you have access to an updated mass spectral database for analysis?
     
    Will you want one or more interface machines, a spray chamber accessory, consumable kits, sample cones, tubing, connector systems, flow controllers, a new gas bench? The list goes on. Take time to consider each type of process your new MS can be expected to handle, and what accessories you will need to make each happen smoothly and seamlessly.
  1. Lab Preparation – Will you need to requisition construction or install any materials to prepare your lab space for the new arrival? Should soundproofing be put in, or is your lab already prepared? Once the purchase is approved, you’ll want to get going on this as soon as practical, keeping in mind that construction projects can cause complications for ongoing work in your lab.
     
  2. Dedicated Storage Furniture – We’ve stressed the importance of having specially designed and dedicated storage available for combustible and otherwise dangerous elements that are used with the new MS in your lab. If this applies to your lab’s scope of work, make sure your budget includes proper storage shelving, cabinets and drawers, (and that the lab design of your construction project includes space for these storage elements).
     
  3. Proper Support for Your New Mass Spectrometer – After going to all this trouble and expense, you certainly want to make sure your new mass spec will be housed as safely and securely as possible in its new environment. This means investing in dedicated lab furniture that is not only strong enough to support the MS, but also all those supplies and peripherals you’re now ordering.

Remember to account for noise reduction: Will the MS be noisy enough that you should enclose the vacuum pumps in either our IonBench MS or a vacuum pump enclosure?

Incorporating Lab Safety into Your Mass Spec Budget

If you want to run a safe and productive lab, you need to plan. Getting approval for significant capital budget items is important, and making sure those numbers are accurate is just as critical. Consider your costs and configure your lab as safely as possible, and your foresight will be rewarded. To learn more, contact us today.

 

It All Adds Up: The Non-Auditory Effects of Lab Noise

Ear PlugNoise is a hazard in many modern work environments, and the lab is no different. A variety of issues arise when people are exposed to excess noise—and not all of them have to do with hearing loss. Lab managers need to pay attention to these noise related dangers—and learn about possible solutions, thereby increasing lab safety and disruption in the laboratory workplace.

Non-Auditory Effects of Occupational Noise

Over the years, researchers have determined that there are numerous effects that impact humans who are exposed to excess noise in the workplace. The first thing that comes to mind for many of us is hearing loss. While that’s a legitimate concern in workplaces that have very high noise levels, today we’re going to focus instead on the non-auditory effects that result from an excess of low-level noise:

Annoyance - While we understand that everyone can occasionally get upset over something, a steady diet of increased noise can make us upset over everything. This increase in annoyance can manifest in anger, exhaustion, and other stress-related symptoms.

Cardiovascular Disease - This one may surprise a lot of people, and it’s significant enough that we’ve talked about it before. Our bodies naturally respond to noise with increased blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, these responses put stress on the heart.

Cognitive Performance – One of the most troubling results from research is that exposure to excess noise has a negative impact on learning. Students exposed to excess noise do worse on cognitive tests, have more memory issues, and demonstrate poorer reading skills.

What Noise Levels Cause Lab Safety Issues?

How do you know if you need to implement noise reduction at your lab or workplace? Get out the sound meter. OSHA standards state that an average time-weighted noise level exposure over an eight-hour shift must not exceed 85 dBA. It is the accumulated effect of all noise sources which result in this noise level limit—meaning that all noise factors must be counted in the total.

With regard to laboratories, OSHA states: “The recommended upper limit for noise for speech to be intelligible is 55 dBA. If the noise level in the laboratory is too high for the staff to hear what is being said, whether in conversation or on the telephone, there is a danger of misunderstanding instructions or laboratory results.” (1)

Here are the three categories of causes that impact these noise level limits:

EquipmentJust about every piece of lab equipment generates some level of noise. In addition to mass spec vacuum pumps, we can think of fume hoods, fridges and freezers, compressors, homogenizers, stirrers, even the rock crushers in a geology lab. Together, all this equipment can really get your lab humming, making it hard to hear, hard to think, and hard to know when a situation reaches a critical lab safety threshold.

Human Activity - In addition to equipment, humans bring additional noise into the lab environment. Sometimes it’s radios and phones, which are used to drown out the other noises. Other times, it’s conversations, teaching moments, and simply the miscellaneous noises generated when humans work together in a lab environment. Each of these contribute to the noise level total.

External Environmental Sources – No lab exists in a vacuum—even if it’s working hard to create one. If your lab is in an industrial area, some noise from the industries around will seep into your facility. Vehicular traffic, the occasional siren, or even a loud thunderstorm will amp up the noise level until it becomes a lab safety issue.

Lab Noise Reduction Options

Naturally, where there is a problem, scientists work to find solutions. Some of the most effective lab noise reduction options include:

  • Sound dampening materials for walls, ceilings and floors
  • Strategic placement of noisy equipment, including into adjacent, sound-proofed rooms, if you’re in the design phase for a new or refurbished lab
  • Selecting lab equipment that’s designed to emit lower noise levels
  • Investing in dedicated lab furniture such as IonBench MS and IonBench LC
  • Isolating noisy vacuum pumps with specifically designed enclosures

The bottom line is that lab noise reduction will make for happier, calmer, safer, more productive staff and researchers. To learn more, request a quote from us today.

References:
(1) 
OSHA Fact Sheet 3463 8/2011 “Laboratory Safety Noise”

Storage Guidelines for Flammables and Combustibles in Your Lab

FlammableDanger comes in many forms. In labs, danger can hang out quietly on a shelf, waiting for just the right set of circumstances to occur. If you don’t have proper lab storage procedures in place and appropriate cabinets installed, you could run the risk of developing unseen lab safety issues.

For example, hazardous liquids require specialized cabinets for safe lab storage. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association have approved specific types of furniture that can safely store combustible liquids. It’s one of the reasons why we always recommend dedicated lab furniture as a way to address appropriate lab safety needs.

Defining Combustible Materials

First things first: What do lab safety experts consider flammable? The two key concerns here are the flashpoint and the boiling point. Flashpoint is the minimum temperature at which a flammable liquid releases sufficient vapor, in combination with the air adjacent to the liquid’s surface, to spontaneously ignite. OSHA defines flammable liquids as those with a flashpoint at or beneath 93 °C or 199.4°F.

If the flashpoint is at or below 23°C or 73.4°F, the boiling point of the liquid (above or below 35°C or 95°F) is also considered in determining its flammability. Other elements that affect flashpoints include vapor density and pressure, specific gravity, and ignition temperature. Lab storage of any material considered flammable must follow certain procedures to prevent a lab safety incident.

Lab Storage Containers for Flammable Materials

OSHA recommends using safety cans for lab storage of flammable materials. They define a safety can as a container “of not more than 5-gallons capacity, having a spring-closing lid and spout cover, and so designed that it will safely relieve internal pressure when subjected to fire exposure.” Naturally, over the years, many such containers have shown up on the market. Numerous insurance companies’ lab safety recommendations (along with municipal laws) require that such safety cans carry either FM (Factory Mutual) or UL labels. Depending on the flashpoint range, these cans must range in maximum size between two and five gallons.

Other types of lab safety containers are also evaluated, both for storage and for transport. Glass or approved plastic containers range in size from one pint to one gallon, while metal drums with DOT specs are approved at 60 gallons and portable tanks are approved at 660 gallons.

Specialized Storage Cabinet Parameters Promote Lab Safety

In addition to storing flammable liquids in approved containers, those containers also need to be placed in lab storage cabinets specially designed to safely hold the containers. The cabinets must be clearly labeled “Flammable: Keep Fire Away” and be constructed in such a way that after ten minutes of exposure to fire, the cabinets’ internal temperature will not exceed 163°C or 325°F.

Such storage cabinets designed to these parameters are most frequently constructed of at least 18-gauge sheet iron on all sides and are double-walled with a 1.5-inch airspace between the walls. The wall joints are most often riveted or welded, although other appropriately strong bonding options can be approved. Doors on these lab storage cabinets must have a three-point latch, and the bottom of the door must be at least two inches above the bottom of the cabinet itself, so the cabinet will retain any liquids that might spill during a lab safety accident.

Dedicated to the Best and Safest Lab Furniture

Being dedicated to lab safety means we are constantly educating ourselves and striving to inform you about all the best practices for your lab. Supplies and furniture that meet safety requirements are part and parcel with those practices—whether we sell them or not. Every task in your lab brings with it some possibilities for danger. With safe containers and lab storage, as well as our IonBench solutions for safely using your MS and HPLC, you will minimize many lab safety risks.

To learn more about our dedicated lab furniture, and how it can configure into your lab safety game plan, contact us today.

Mass Spec Technology Advances Open Doors in Research and Clinical Applications

PioneeringWe like keeping up with what’s happening in the world of mass spectrometry. After all, support for the technology means more than a safe and solid bench to place your MS on. In the century since its invention, mass spec technology advancements keep on coming. In this post, we want to celebrate three specific ways in which MS continues to evolve.

Expanding LC-MS/MS into Routine Clinical Settings

Mass spec technology advancements are increasingly arriving in local clinical settings. Instrument design has downsized significantly, allowing for simplified, standardized diagnostic kits to replace lab testing. This past summer, two instruments were launched that provide “industry-first” clinical lab results.

After six years in development, Thermo Fisher Scientific is close to launching the premier fully integrated LC-MS/MS clinical analyzer: Cascadion SM. Its specially designed reagent kit requires minimal interaction by people who are not experts with MS technology. SCIEX also launched an LC-MS system designed particularly for clinical diagnostics. They have adapted their existing Topaz™ system to allow LC-MS to be more accessible and comprehensible to staff in clinical labs.

Standardization is key to the success of both these mass spec technology advancements, especially since the FDA is guiding away from LDTs. By moving toward automation in a clinical setting, med techs can be more easily trained in operating and sustaining clinical processes. Improvements in procedures are already forecast for renal cell carcinoma diagnostics and genetic testing for opioid addiction risk.

Bruker’s New Tech Platform: TimsTOFTM

Bruker has created a flexible mass spec that optimizes separation and analysis using Ion Mobility Expansion that has the highest ion mobility resolution in the industry. Previously, research and practical applications were limited by the physical size of IMS systems, but they created a compact TIMS with resolution greater than 200. TIMS also allows accurate assessment of collisional cross sections and gas-phase protein structure and aggregation. Users can also develop their own analytical algorithms because their platform employs the *.tdf open data format based on SQLite. Bruker also supplies data analysis software to maximize interactive analysis of higher-resolution ion mobility data.

Mass Spec Technology Advancements for 2D-LC Methodologies

Two-dimensional liquid chromatography (2D-LC) is evolving from lab-constructed jury-rigged type systems (hopefully well-supported on our dedicated lab furniture) to commercial 2D-LC instruments that allow more robust performance and integration with other processes. Techs can now easily switch between selective and comprehensive 2D-LC with enhanced instrument control. Pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical laboratories are taking note.

Commercial 2D-LC has previously transformed small-molecule analysis, usually focused on single-peak heart cutting. Problems remained, however. For example, orthogonal selectivity in the second dimension was limited to using simple heart-cutting LC–LC for single peak transfer. Researchers were challenged by the slow speed of chiral separations, which limited the use of chiral stationary phases (CSPs) as the second dimension, particularly when using the comprehensive mode. Now, however, multiple groups of researchers have proven that chiral separations in either or both dimensions of 2D-LC pharmaceuticals separations produce excellent division of mixtures that were difficult to resolve.

Supporting Mass Spectrometry Evolution

We celebrate these mass spec technology advancements and trust that more are on the way. At this point, mass spec technology permeates every genre of science and is used in a seemingly endless variety of helpful applications.

As mass spec technology evolves, you may find that your lab configuration needs change. Secure and customizable solutions for supporting your equipment are available. Our IonBench MS provides more than adequate support for all MS equipment, and help further the research being done and the advances made. If you know of further mass spec technology advancements we should celebrate here, please contact us today.

 

Equipment Configuration Feng Shui Can Enhance Lab Safety

RocksEvery lab has its own spatial challenges. In the process of working with lab administrators over the years, we’ve heard about many different configuration obstacles that labs have had to overcome to get their work done. Sometimes, these changes seem to require a Feng Shui expert to get things to align properly—but a better approach is to talk to experts about incorporating custom dedicated lab furniture into your lab.

Aligning Mass Spec Equipment and Lab Safety

Research labs, academic labs, and clinical labs all have their own unique set of priorities and necessary outcomes, and for each, the ideal lab configuration is different. When you consider the shape and dimensions of the space you’re working with, there’s simply no way to have a “one size fits all” solution. Instead, it’s best to align your spatial limitations and equipment support needs to determine the best setup for a well-organized space—one that will prevent lab accidents from happening and keep workflow moving as efficiently as possible. When your furniture is crafted with the task in mind, even personnel posture can be improved.

Making Lab Arrangements Work and Prevent Lab Accidents

The shape and size of your mass spec and other key instrumentation will determine a lot of what you can and can’t do within your lab space. For example, we had a customer with a Shimadzu 8050 alongside a large HPLC system. He also wanted an attached work area for his computer so he didn’t have to trek back and forth to record data. We have an extended lab bench, but the overhang from it would have covered a third of the standard lateral side bench needed for the computer. We worked out a custom solution, using our dedicated lab furniture, which canted the additional work surface to minimize the overlap. The result was a large, sophisticated MS-HPLC system, with workstation, all in a space of between eight and nine feet.

Another issue arises when labs have deep mass specs, such as the Waters Xevo TQ-S. In this situation, we can install access holes for hoses on the back of the IonBench MS instead of on the top, which is our standard configuration. Since the bench is also built on casters, it’s possible to get to those hoses without reaching and climbing—thus decreasing the possibility of accidents and minimizing potential damage when the equipment is moved out for servicing.

Mobility Is the Key to Configuration Success

Casters are key when it comes to arranging your lab. We know of a startup facility in Boston with a beautiful, classic lab design, where everything was aligned perfectly at the beginning to allow for efficient workflow and to prevent lab accidents. Unfortunately, over time, they purchased more and more equipment and had no place to put it.

If they’d set everything on movable lab furniture, they could have easily, repeatedly, and safely rearranged their lab to find a configuration that would work best for them. Ultimately, they had to rent additional space to house their growing collection of equipment. It was a costly alternative that could have been avoided with some planning and forethought about customization and mobility.

Keeping Lab Workspaces Functional

There are several key elements to supporting lab safety through designing functional lab spaces. Fine-tuning your set up will ensure that lab personnel can work safely and efficiently within a space.

You may not even realize your lab configuration is inefficient, because you’ve become so used to working around the inefficiencies. But there’s a good chance your lab feng shui could be improved. Give us a call to talk about your unique spatial challenges and we’d be happy to explore the many possibilities for customizing your lab configuration.

Pointers for Lab Bench Maintenance and Countertop Care

Do's & Dont'sRemember the adage about being “part of the furniture?” It usually refers to something or someone that is such a reliable and regular feature that they are taken for granted or seen as a permanent fixture. If you’re fortunate, you might have a long-serving lab tech or two who are like that. The ones that always get their jobs done, and are generally low-maintenance. Even those steadfast lab techs need occasional attention, and so does your dedicated lab furniture.

All furniture—even incredibly durable dedicated lab furniture—requires proper care. We’ll share some cleaning and maintenance tips that will address the dos and don’ts of keeping your lab furniture and countertops in tip-top shape.

Lab Bench Vulnerabilities

But first—what are the risks? Unless a surface is made of diamonds or a solid sheet of Q-carbon (and frankly, could you afford to have it in your lab if it was?), any surface is vulnerable to damage if not cared for properly. Lab bench countertops can be damaged by any of the following:

  • Immense weight—stacking too much equipment on one surface can cause structural damage to the average bench. Good news is, our IonBench is equipped with specially-built casters that help support heavy equipment. The weight of equipment can also lead to…
  • Scratches and dents—something that is much more likely to happen with laminate, but can still damage Chem Res™ and other epoxy resin countertops if one is not careful.
  • Spilled solvents—which is why it’s critical to clean up any spill in your lab long before it has a chance to seep into cracks or the seams of the countertop (our countertop is seamless in design, to help eliminate risk of damage).
  • Heat and flame—fire-resistant (which our countertops are) does not mean fireproof, which is why no lab experiment should ever be left unattended.

Lab Bench Maintenance Will Extend the Life of Your Furniture

The epoxy resin used for the IonBench LC and the Chem Res™ countertops used for other IonBench products are largely heat, moisture, and flame resistant. With proper lab bench care, these types of countertops can last for many years.

Here are some tips for preserving the shine and maximizing the longevity of your new countertop.

  • Avoid cleaning liquids and supplies that contain abrasives. These can dull or scratch that new-bench shine.
  • Avoid waxes, or polishes that contain wax.
  • Use mild dish soap and water for daily cleaning.
  • With major spills, avoid volatile cleaning compounds such as acetone or paint thinner, which can permeate the lab and compromise future analysis results. Crystal Simple Green is a much safer lab bench care option.
  • Avoid scouring pads, except for white Scotch-Brite® Light Duty pads—which must always be used wet.
  • We prefer chamois cloths, which are both absorbent and gentle. If those are a little too costly for your budget, cotton rags and towels will also work.
  • Metal equipment can mar the surface. Ensure that the rubber feet of your various types of equipment are present and intact.
  • If scratches do result from metal contact, use the cleaning process above and apply extra elbow grease to remove any minuscule amounts of metal that may get left behind.

The bottom line is that nothing, and no one, should be considered just “part of the furniture.” There are many different aspects that can contribute to your lab’s success, and proper care of your surfaces is one of them.

To learn more about dedicated lab furniture that is built to withstand the many tests of time and everyday wear, contact us today.

Is Soundproofing Part of Your Lab Safety Strategy?

NoiseHow confident are you that the noise pollution in your lab isn’t reaching levels that could be interfering with the quality of your lab’s research—or worse, risking the health and well-being of your personnel?

Noise and, of course, its accompanying vibrations can result from conversation, the ever-present hum of lab equipment, or outside environmental factors (think of the landscaping crew running the lawn mower every Wednesday at 3pm).

All that noise can lend to a chaotic environment in which communication breaks down and instructions become harder to follow. High-level occupational noise leads to hearing loss and even low-level occupational noise has been linked to stress and cardiovascular disease.

In short, rising noise levels are a serious liability.

What Does Noise Reduction have to do with Lab Safety?

While the noise is doing a number on the people in your lab, vibration is compromising the integrity of your lab equipment. Your mass spectrometer, and the furniture that supports it, is slowly being shaken apart; tubes may begin to leak, cooling fans may start to break, and table joints become less stable.

The most ideal way to battle noise and vibration is to treat it at the source. Investing in dedicated lab furniture that’s designed specifically to minimize and contain noise is half the battle. But there are also soundproofing treatments you can incorporate into your lab design to help keep the equipment noise contained, and some of the hazardous side-effects at bay.

Basic Soundproofing Principles

 Avoid air cavities - Trapped air resonates and causes the walls or sides of whatever material is trapping it to vibrate. It’s the same basic principle of most musical instruments; drums, guitars, wind instruments—vibrations are captured and manipulated within an opening to produce a desired sound. So, if you have walls, cabinets, nooks or crannies in your lab that are potential air traps, find a way to identify and insulate those cavities with foam or other materials designed to absorb vibration.

Enclosures and barriers - At the core, noise reduction is about preventing sound from penetrating one side of a wall or enclosure and transmitting through the material into an adjacent area. Walls and barriers act as shields which dampen noise. Some labs are built with soundproofing and noise enclosures in mind, but if yours isn’t one of them, you can help alleviate the transmission of noise and vibration by creating or installing walls and barriers around your noisy mass spectrometer and vacuum pumps, gas generators, compressors, freezers—you get the idea.

Damping – The more mass a wall has, the harder it is for sound to travel through it. You’ll want to make sure your walls are thick and dampened. There are several sources online that will help you do this yourself. Of course, you can hire companies to do some of this work for you, and that might be practical if you’re redesigning your current lab or investing in a new construction project.

Noise Reduction, Compliments of Dedicated Lab Furniture

Like every other task in your lab, you need the right equipment and tools to get the job done. Cutting a significant portion of the noise off at the source will help reduce the total ambient sound traveling throughout your lab. Quiet vacuum pump enclosures are specialized cabinets designed to reduce vacuum pump noise by approximately 75%.

Our lab benches and desks are also expertly built with noise-reduction in mind. IonBench uses patented calibrated dampening springs to remove 99% of vibration transfer.

Beyond that, any soundproofing materials or barriers are just icing on the cake.

If you’re in a position to decide what the best plan of action is to soundproof your lab, and aren’t entirely sure what the next steps are, get a hold of us. We can help you with a noise reduction system that’s best for your needs.

Explosion at Eglin is a Reminder for Lab Accident Prevention

AccidentThe recent lab accident that sent smoke billowing into the sky above a research facility on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida is a reminder of the importance of lab safety. Fortunately, it appears no one was injured in this laboratory mishap, but one building exploded and burned, sending toxic smoke into the air and likely damaging ongoing research projects in the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, which is the largest controlled-environment facility for testing aircraft under adverse conditions.

Making Lab Safety a Priority

This news is a serious reminder about lab safety, which we believe is critically important for every research lab, regardless of its size. While we don’t know the details or cause of this lab accident, we’re willing to bet that it might have been avoided if all existing lab safety protocols had been followed. In the past, we have shared other stories about lab accidents that have caused injury, sometimes deadly.

Causes of lab accidents vary widely, from a lack of understanding about hazards in the lab to incorrect use of lab tools and equipment. Inexperience, distraction, and inattention can cause lab accidents, as can cracked or broken glassware or other damaged tools.

Key Components for Preventing Lab Accidents

Fortunately, protocols and procedures exist to help prevent lab accidents from occurring. Critical thinking and follow-through can go a long way. Here are some tips on how to get everyone in your lab subscribing to methods and practices that help promote lab safety culture:

Recognize potential hazards and risks - Every class of compounds and solutions should be well-known to those who work with them. This includes a complete understanding of the various hazards and risks involved in handing each compound. Understand which pieces of equipment should be used and what procedures are appropriate when completing each task.

In addition to recognizing the risks involved, it’s important to ask if there is a safer class of compounds that can be used instead. If this is not possible, determine whether a reaction scheme or procedure can be minimized to reduce hazard risks.

If personal protective equipment is your primary line of defense, make certain to address whether any other safety measures might be taken in addition, to minimize the chance of lab accidents.

Evaluating risks - In addition to risk likelihood, it’s important to evaluate risk severity. Fume hood spills are higher in probability than explosions, but fortunately fume hood lab accidents are usually less severe. With more severe possibilities, it’s important to ask whether both supervisors and institutional leaders would consider the risk sufficiently worth taking in light of the potential outcome of the experiment. What would be the legal ramifications of a severe lab accident?

Paying attention and work in appropriate groupings - Another element which can jeopardize lab safety is inattention caused by working with too many or too few people. Some lab operations are serious enough that established safety procedures require a coworker to be present, or the work to be done only during regular operational hours. It is always wise, whenever hazardous situations are possible, to thoroughly evaluate the possibilities and discuss appropriate protocols with supervisors or PIs.

Keeping News Lab-Accident Free

Honestly, we hate reading about lab accidents in the news—especially ones that end in tragedy. We’d rather discuss lab safety from a theoretical level and recognize that adopting effective accident prevention habits takes a communal effort.

Carelessness is a potential danger in every lab. Even the quality and placement of your dedicated lab furniture can make a difference in lab safety. Don’t add to lab chaos, or allow lab furniture to contribute to a lab accident. Contact us today to learn more about the lab safety features in our IonBenches.

Unchecked Lab Noise Could Cause Anger, Stress, and Cardiovascular Disease

StressThere’s a wealth of research and awareness regarding occupational and environmental health risks to hearing. While, in general, lab noise isn’t likely to approach the dBA of a jackhammer or a power saw—levels that damage hearing—it can still be a compromising factor for health in other ways (and in turn, lab safety).

Substantial evidence shows that the effects of long-term exposure to noise, even low-level noise, can range far beyond its impact on hearing. Exposure to loud noise has been linked to an increase in annoyance, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease, and even cognitive impairment in children.

The Non-Auditory Effects of Lab Noise on Health

Now, we certainly hope that there are no children in your lab. And we hope that staff are not sleeping there either, on or off shift. The lab safety issue has more to do with the lasting effect noise has on our bodies throughout the day and night.

Annoyance: While annoyance in the workplace might be something we are inclined to roll our eyes at, the long-term effects of working in a setting that triggers annoyance can be real and lasting. Anger, displeasure, and exhaustion are all side-effects of sustained periods of annoyance. These can manifest in large and small ways, triggering lab safety issues when workplace conversations escalate into anger and displeasure. We’re all human, and it’s no secret that annoyed or angry people tend to display poor judgment or impaired function—the prime underlying causes of tragic lab accidents. 

Stress: Stress can cause a dangerous lab safety downward spiral if it is not addressed. While sleep disturbance from noise is usually linked to environmental factors in the home rather than lab noise, lab noise can increase stress, which is linked to sleep loss. This means one of the effects of lab noise on health is lack of sleep. Let’s face it; sleepy lab techs are sloppy lab techs. They might mislabel solution or accidentally skip lab safety protocols, resulting in dangerous lab conditions.

Cardiovascular Disease: More hidden effects of lab noise on health come in the form of cardiovascular disease. Repeated noise exposure increases blood pressure and heart rate; and releases stress hormones, thereby increasing the stress response. These bodily changes have a direct impact on the heart, resulting, over time, in increased rates of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Naturally, these diseases will have a direct impact, not just on lab safety, but on your staff’s productivity as well. We have listed some of the longer-term effects of lab noise on health and your lab’s productivity in a prior article.

Lab Noise Reduction Improves Lab Safety

There is hope though, and these nasty side-effects of lab noise on health can be controlled. One of the best ways, is to invest in quality dedicated lab furniture that will, among other things, help with lab noise reduction. Our IonBench MS can decrease noise and increase both lab safety and productivity, so contact us today to discuss customized solutions to battle the noise.