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.

Moving on up: Mass Spec Life Sciences and Forensics Applications

Going UpPeriodically we like to highlight the amazing work that is coming out of mass spec life sciences and forensics research. It’s nice to know our dedicated lab furniture is literally supporting the machines that improve the quality of life, and we like to celebrate those innovations when we can.

These four mass spec accomplishments are worth a share.

Simultaneously Detecting Multiple Shellfish Toxins

Tandem mass spectrometry continues to break new ground. In this case, food-safety researchers in China utilized HPLC-MS/MS technology to tangle with multiple paralytic toxins. Eight different compounds that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning can now be simultaneously determined with a single sample using multiple reaction monitoring and matrix-matched calibration. This work makes it significantly easier and less expensive to test shellfish for toxins and thus prevent seafood poisoning in the general population.

Tracking Salmonella Typhimurium Host-Pathogen Interactions

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Sweden have been investigating Salmonella Typhimurium, which causes gastroenteritis and can lead to systemic disease if these bacteria invade the small intestine. In a report published in June, 2017, they focused on the use of mass spectrometry to track interactions between S. Typhimurium and its murine hosts. In humans, especially the young, the immunocompromised, or the elderly, S. Typhimurium crosses the intestinal epithelium and migrates to systemic sites.

Researchers focused on mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs), which drain the intestines and thus are more susceptible to what is contained therein. Researchers were able to determine that palmitoylcarnitine (PalC) reduces T cells and increases B cells, thus impacting the progress of the systemic infection.

Mass spectrometry was essential to this process because MSI tracks a full spectrum, allowing researchers to discover and determine target molecules after samples have already been analyzed. In this case, multiple candidate molecules were detected and analyzed before PalC was chosen for further analysis.

Decoding Designer Drug Overdoses

Emergency rooms across the country are at a disadvantage when arriving patients have overdosed on drugs of any kind. There are literally hundreds of designer drug components available on the streets these days, and treatments for the various compounds differ. Hospitals currently must collect a blood sample, put it on ice, and rush it to a lab for preparation and then MS analysis. This takes precious time which can be the difference between survival and death.

Now Nicholas Manicke of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis created a small device, preloaded with a single-use cartridge of chemical components, that will take one drop of blood and immediately prep it for mass spec analysis. He envisions a future where these devices will collaborate with an on-site MS to provide two essential services: (1) an immediate and detailed analysis of both the components and concentration of each designer drug element and (2) public health data on designer -drug component trends.

Hair Sample Use in Toxicology

Hair analysis is increasingly being used in conjunction with mass spectrometry because the standard growth rate of hair (one centimeter per month) allows researchers to determine both the volume and introduction timing of either essential or toxic metals into the human system. Hair is much easier than other samples to collect, preserve, transport and store.

Historically, mass spec forensics has analyzed bulk hair samples, seeking only concentration of metals using inductively coupled plasma MS. Now, however, researchers from China are using secondary ion mass spectrometry, particle induced x-ray emission 12, and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, to analyze individual hair strands for both the volume of metals present and the timing of their introduction. The success of this initial experiment bodes well for its routine use in therapeutic, occupational, nutritional and toxicological situations.

Mass Spec Applications and Lab Furniture that Supports Them

Clearly, mass spectrometry applications continue to expand in usefulness, across genres and around the globe. As each MS supports the work of its researchers, we hope you’ll consider supporting your mass spectrometer with our dedicated lab furniture.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about protecting and maximizing your mass spec investment.

How Smart Labs Battle Bad Vibrations

QuietThere are no “good vibrations” when it comes to your mass spec. Every new generation of mass spectrometer brings forth more sensitive machines that produce increasingly finer spectra. However, this increase in analytic power comes at a cost to the lab, which must maintain these sensitive machines in progressively more solid and stable lab conditions.

Keeping the damaging effects of vibration at bay can be done. Making sure you have the right lab furniture is key, but there are several other techniques smart labs use that we’ll share with you as well.

Sources of Sound and Vibration

First, let’s think about all the places vibrations can originate from. There are plenty of common sources of noise and movement in and around your lab environment that generate subtle but impactful vibration. With super-sensitive, modern mass spectrometry, even walking down a nearby hallway or closing a door can cause undue vibration. Vibrations can arise from cars going by outside the building and mechanical devices within it, such as elevators, HVAC units, compressors, pumps, etc. Buildings sway in response to weather and small movements of the earth, not to mention larger seismic activity. Even exhaust fans can contribute to bad vibrations if they become unbalanced.

Avoiding Bad Vibrations for Good Mass Spectrometry

Take a look at the Quiet Wing, created by the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. This lab space was specifically engineered to minimize noise and vibration. Not every lab is in a position to build such a protected building from the ground up, but there are some easier and less expensive changes that can be made:

  • If possible, locate your mass spectrometry labs on the lowest floors of your research building to decrease the effect of building sway, weather, and seismic activity.
  • Keep sensitive mass specs far away from elevators, HVAC systems, compressors, etc.
  • Installing acoustic tiles and other sound-absorbing materials on walls and ceilings can help minimize vibration.
  • Incorporating signage that reminds lab personnel of the importance of keeping noise and physical activity down whenever possible.

Minimize Vibration with Good Laboratory Furniture

Vibration not only impacts the performance of sensitive mass specs, it can also shorten the lifespan of their components, especially the turbomolecular pumps. The irony is that vacuum pumps also create vibration, challenging mass spectrometry teams to create the vibration free environment needed for their research.

The surest solution is to invest in dedicated laboratory furniture with isolating vacuum pump enclosures, like the IonBench MS. Our enclosures reduce vacuum pump noise by a guaranteed 15 dbA, eliminating the miniscule, but measurable, vibrations created by significant noise.

These enclosures are mounted on patented dampening springs which absorb 99% of vibration transfer. We believe every lab can benefit by utilizing mass spectrometry laboratory furniture that both isolates noise and eliminates vibration—regardless of the building or environment in which it is set. IonBench MS tackles the noise and vibration issues at the source itself.

To learn more about how our laboratory furniture eliminates bad vibrations, contact us today to request a quote or to get your questions about integrating IonBench MS into your lab answered. Your mass spec will thank you for it.

Lab Safety and MS Sensitivity Leap Forward with TENGs

ElectricityOver its 130-year history, the mass spectrometer has undergone multiple technological advances. During that time, however, the power source has remained direct current—which has certain limiting factors. As you likely know, it’s typically impossible to control the number of charges in the ionization process. The number of generated ions also cannot be reliably correlated with the applied voltage.

A Revolutionary Power Source

Now, however, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have broken through this power source limitation with the introduction of TENGs, or triboelectric nanogenerators. TENGs utilize oscillating high voltage and controlled current, thus having the capacity to improve the ionization process by increasing voltage without sample damage.

TENGs use friction to generate static electricity. By rubbing together one material that sheds electrons (such as nylon or glass) and a second material that naturally absorbs electrons (such as Teflon or silicon), TENGs power small, efficient electronic devices. This simple conversion of mechanical energy from friction to electricity has the capacity to transform much of mass spectrometry.

Micro-Power Makes a Macro-Difference

Why can TENGs make such a difference in mass spectrometry? A fixed input charge is the answer. Regardless of current or voltage, the mass spec can analyze much smaller samples at even higher sensitivities—down to 100 molecules. A fixed number of charges also allows for previously impossible control over the generation of ions—which enables the MS to work with much greater efficiency. Molecule charge can be controlled for every cycle, regardless of the TENG’s speed.

A leap in voltage is another consequence of using TENGs. Standard MS ionizers operate at less than 1,500 volts while TENGs can generate as much as 8,000 volts. This allows for much smaller sample sizes—a “completely different electrospray regime,” according to Professor Facundo Fernández of Georgia Tech.

Generating Leaps in Lab Safety and Portability

In addition to added sensitivity and the ability to use smaller sample sizes, TENGs also revolutionize the power equation. They eliminate the need for high-voltage power supplies (despite generating many more volts!). Removing such power sources from your lab will both increase lab safety and dramatically decrease your lab’s energy costs.

The benefits of mass spec miniaturization are countless. Without the need for high-voltage power supplies these nanogenerators have an increased potential for portability, making it easier to take mass specs into the field. Being able to analyze samples at the scene, especially in extreme, harsh environments, can both speed up time-sensitive processes and increase project efficiency.

We’re thrilled to see that mass specs continue to evolve and we’re here to help you to keep up with the many improvements happening in the field. Each new generation of mass spectrometer should be supported with dedicated lab furniture. It’s an investment that keeps lab safety at the forefront while crafting customizable lab benches that can meet the needs of every mass spec, researcher or technician. Contact us today to discuss your lab’s furniture needs and to learn more about our commitment to lab safety.

Reasons Why Lab Noise Reduction is a Health and Safety Matter

yawnOne of our important lab safety mantras is that high noise levels in the lab can both contribute to lab safety accidents and undermine employee health.

Noisy work environments lead to increased stress levels, breakdowns in communication, and even negative impacts on cognition. If you want to promote employee health and safety, lab noise reduction is a good direction to follow.

Health Risks Associated with Workplace Noise

By now, we all know that high levels of noise have a detrimental effect on hearing—and while the noise in your lab might not be bad enough to cause hearing loss, there are other adverse health effects. For example, a study published several years ago linked noise pollution to heart disease. The researchers specifically noted increases in coronary disease and hypertension as a result of chronic exposure to higher noise levels.

Furthermore, the body responds to increased noise by releasing various stress-related hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These are proven contributors to hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and immune deficiencies. In addition to harming your lab techs, all of these employee health issues can also lead to increased sick time taken and decreased productivity in the lab.

Lab Noise Reduction Also Prevents Lab Accidents

The masking nature of noise is such that even when it’s reduced to 55 dBA (learn more about decibels here), it can still prevent you and your colleagues from understanding each other’s verbal direction. This miscommunication contributes to a greater risk for lab incidents and accidents. At least for the time being, labs don’t come with subtitles, and a misheard instruction can be deadly—especially when working with hazardous materials.

Even workers’ ability to comprehend and process daily tasks can be compromised by excessive noise. The authors of this article, the Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health, point out that studies examining road traffic and airport noise suggest high noise levels have a negative impact on cognition. The authors also mention that studies “have shown that reductions in noise exposure…are associated with improvements in cognition…” In fact, The World Health Organization Noise Guidelines suggest that background levels should not exceed 35 dbA during children’s school lessons because it limits their cognitive abilities.

Simply taking steps to reduce the noise in your lab could improve lab personnel’s ability to process information and do their job safely and efficiently.

Using Dedicated Lab Furniture for Lab Noise Reduction

One of the most effective methods of lab noise reduction is the introduction of IonBench dedicated lab furniture into your facility. One primary lab noise culprit is your mass spec vacuum pumps, and our dedicated lab furniture is designed to sequester those vacuum pump sounds within specially designed cabinets. We’re so certain of the success of our IonBench MS that we guarantee a lab noise reduction of 15 dBA from those pumps. This translates into a health-risk decrease of 10-15%.

So, taking all this information into consideration, don’t you think it would be wise to protect your employees from both the direct and indirect health hazards of excessive noise? Easy and obvious solutions are available with the IonBench MS. Request a quote from us today to learn more.

 

Lab Working Conditions and the Hawthorne Effect

InvestTrying to figure out the exact equation for what will make your lab environment the safest it can be, while maintaining productivity and team morale can be a real challenge.

Investing in quality, dedicated lab furniture helps to improve lab working conditions in multiple ways. First, our IonBenches are specifically designed to meet the safety and organizational needs of the modern laboratory environment. Second, simply taking the steps to improve the working conditions of your lab will be noticed by personnel, causing morale to skyrocket. Rest assured productivity will follow suit.

The second point is supported by a curious cause and effect—better known as The Hawthorne Effect.

The Hawthorne Effect

This fascinating phenomenon was first discovered by researchers at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois in the early twentieth century. Researchers were seeking to discover if changes in lighting, working hours, break times, etc. would make a difference in employee productivity at the Hawthorne plant. What they found was that both morale and productivity improved over the course of the study, but returned to their original levels once the study was over.

Researchers concluded that the employees responded to the observation by increasing their productivity. What’s more, morale increased because workers realized management was expressing concern about their working conditions. The Hawthorne Effect has been replicated in a variety of studies since then. It occurs when employees feel that their needs are being addressed.

Involving Lab Personnel in Assessing Lab Working Conditions

While we firmly believe that improvements in lab safety do make a difference, it’s also true that simply taking steps to improve lab working conditions can have positive effects as personnel recognizes interest is being taken in their wellbeing.

What does this mean for lab management? It doesn’t mean you should frequently run lighting or temperature experiments—that could be disastrous. Instead, we believe it means involving lab personnel in discussions about how to provide the safest and most efficient work environment.

Ask staff about what changes could improve their day-to-day operations and you might be surprised by their responses. You might even bring about the Hawthorne Effect.

Some suggestions that we have for improving lab working conditions include the following:

These are just a few starters. We imagine your lab personnel will have more suggestions. When you take their suggestions seriously and follow through, you will gain employee loyalty as well as increased productivity and morale.

Show your techs you care about making their lives easier by taking steps toward improving safety and organization in your lab. If dedicated lab furniture is in order, contact us today to learn more.

A Mass Spec User’s Guide to Pittcon 2017

LearnedThis year’s Pittcon, in Chicago IL, looks to be every bit as successful and informative as last year’s. With hundreds of experts gathered to share innovative news about biospectroscopy, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and more, the event is always an amazing opportunity for folks in the lab industry to step up their game and find solutions for all their lab challenges. Needless to say, we’re thrilled to be attending.

As a reader of this blog, you know we believe a safe lab environment increases productivity—and being informed is the best way to maintain that safe environment. That’s why we’re constantly trying to educate ourselves and our clients on the latest lab and mass spec technology. And Pittcon, besides being a great meeting of the minds, has tons of educational opportunities to offer. We’ve put together some highlights below.

Pittcon’s Greatest Mass Spec Offerings

  • 100 skill-building short courses – These courses are available to help you brush up in your areas of expertise. There are many categories to choose from—but here’s a few that we think are most beneficial:
  • Analytical Organic Mass Spectrometry
  • Highly Successful Strategies for LC/MS Quantitation: Current Applications and Emerging Technologies
  • An Introduction to Mass Spectrometry including Biomolecule Applications
  • Live Expo Demos – These 20-minute sessions feature new product demonstrations by leading companies—a perfect way to learn about innovative solutions to your unique lab challenges. It’s also a rare chance to engage in real time conversation with industry experts. Check out the complete live expo schedule to see what’s being shared.
  • The Magnificent Mile – In between live expos and workshops, make your way to The Magnificent Mile to unwind. No, we’re not talking about the famous Chicago shopping district, this one is in the middle of the exposition floor. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat or even a relaxing massage. Here, attendees are finding tons of interactive displays that will engage the senses and stimulate the mind. Check out the Giant iPad, the Lab Gauntlet challenge, LEGO® Gravity Car racing and more!

Share Your Experiences!

We’re having a great time learning about all the new instrumentation, data management, lab equipment and research the leaders in the lab community have had up their sleeves. And we want to hear from you about what products or research you’re finding to be most intriguing at this year’s Pittcon.

Get in touch with us and let us know about any cool new mass spectrometry products or technology you’ve come across this year. And if you’re contemplating investing in a new piece of equipment, we’ll gladly help you select the right kind of dedicated lab furniture to help preserve and protect it.

Lab Organization Matters: Use Our Clutter Reduction Checklist

OrganizationHave you given any thought to the cost of disorganization in your lab? Whether it’s wasted time, duplicate orders, or lab safety accidents waiting to happen (see our previous post for a couple of examples), there are many reasons why lab organization matters. We’ve compiled a handy clutter reduction checklist to help battle the disorganization that could be costing you time, money and peace of mind.

✔ A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

Every tool in your lab needs a home regardless of whether it’s big or small. Smaller tools like pipettes and slides need a safe place to reside when they aren’t being used. Likewise, larger equipment, like mass spectrometers, need to be safely housed on a strong piece of dedicated lab furniture to keep them safe and sound.

✔  Document and communicate proper storage areas

 All lab personnel should know where everything belongs—this means having a designated and documented (keep a binder handy!) place for all items. It would be wise to put a specific person in charge of keeping this information up to date and checking regularly to ensure that all lab personnel know how to access it.

✔  Make Definitive Decisions About Grouping Items

There should also be order to your lab organization decision-making. You wouldn’t want to store reactive items next to each other, lest you cause an accidental conflagration. You also don’t want to store objects that are used together on opposite sides of the lab, so people must constantly walk back and forth across others’ work areas.

✔  Group like with like: Think about the attributes of each item you’re seeking to store, and group like things together. This means keeping flammable items together in a heat-resistant cabinet, away from warmer areas of the lab or lab benches where open flames are used. Keeping similar solutions together will also prevent lab safety accidents.

✔  A Label for Everything

Labels are the key to successful lab organization. If you’re not sure what’s stored inside a certain group of frost-covered tubes in the back of the freezer, you’ve got a potential disaster on your hands—or at least a severe setback in the progress of your colleague’s research when you prematurely thaw the tube rack to figure out what’s inside.

✔  Use the proper types of labels: Labels also must be appropriate to the containers and the conditions. That freezer requires moisture-proof labeling, and you might consider luggage tags for each shelf; they won’t get buried under the frost. Label both the spaces and the containers; it will help reinforce the connection between the two for distracted lab techs who have happy hour on their minds as they’re finishing up.

✔  Clean Early and Often to Ensure Lab Safety

When a spill occurs, clean it up, thoroughly and immediately. Vapors travel, liquids can contaminate notebooks (think about how much your data is worth!) and destroy electronics, and powders can become airborne. It can be tempting to continue with your procedure and clean the mess up later, but lab safety common sense requires keeping your work station and lab bench crystal clean.

✔  Establish routine cleaning processes: Routinely cleaning everything at the end of each shift, or before beginning a new project will pay off for everyone. While you might be running late to for family dinner, your morning crew will not be happy to discover that contamination happened overnight because someone left a pile of Petri dishes knocked over on the floor.

✔  Let Your Lab Bench Assist with Lab Organization

One of the best tools for lab organization is your lab bench itself. We have given a lot of thought to how we have constructed our IonBenches. For example, our IonBench MS provides easy management of cables and pipes, designated space for solvent storage, and optional drawer bank and waste storage accessories. Let us help you keep the clutter in check. Request a quote today to learn more about IonBench.

Organization is the Key to a Safe (and Productive) Lab

Lab ShelvesIt’s common medical knowledge that our brains naturally forget. Studies have shown, for example, that when we listen to a presentation, we’ve already forgotten 40% of the information by the end of the lecture, and by the end of the week, we’ve forgotten 90% of it. This is one reason that we keep returning to the topic of lab safety. Forgetting to focus on lab safety can have potentially disastrous consequences.

Safety begins with organization—and that doesn’t just mean keeping all your test tubes in straight rows. Good organization requires regular record keeping, communication, proper labeling practices, routine cleaning and more. Here are two such examples that will connect the importance of organization to the safety of your lab.

Organized Means Labeled

Our first example takes place in a mechanical engineering research lab, where spontaneous combustion was the unfortunate result of improperly labeled nanomaterials. These particular internally produced aluminum nanoparticles had not been oxidized. The lab techs involved were used to working with commercially produced nanoparticles that were oxidized as part of the production process. Unfortunately, the internally produced nanoparticles were only labeled as “Aluminum Nanopowder,” giving techs no clue as to their potential flammability.

Furthermore, appropriate fire suppression materials were not on hand for addressing a metals fire. When the available “ABC” fire extinguisher had no effect on the fire, lab techs used their own coats to smother the flames—but not before one tech’s pants were burnt. Had there been an organized lab safety plan in place, sand would have been readily available and the techs would have known to use this to suppress the metals fire.

Compounding the problem—and the lab safety investigation—was the fact that the internally manufactured nanoparticles had not recently been produced, and the tech who produced them was no longer employed by the university at the time of the fire.

This is a classic example of what can go wrong when the chain of communication breaks down. Essentially, poor communication led to poor record keeping, which led to sloppy and improper labeling. There was no way for anyone to know whether the nanoparticles were oxidized prior to use. This proved even more costly when the university was forced to dispose of the entire stock of internally produced nanoparticles.

Organized Means Following Protocol

In another example, a student was splashed while washing materials in a nitric acid bath. Nitric acid entered the student’s eye because the student was not wearing eye protection. Fortunately, the victim immediately flushed the eye, twice, and no permanent damage resulted.

While there was no permanent harm, this lab safety incident cost the university time and money, with a trip to the hospital, incident procedures to follow and a lab safety investigation to undertake. If the student had simply followed an organized set of lab safety procedures, this event would not have taken place.

Organized Means Dedicated Lab Furniture

We understand the power of organization and its role in supporting lab safety. We share these lab-incident stories in the hopes that our lab safety posts will be part of the 10% of information that remains in your head by the end of the week. Complete organization is achieved through a variety of practices and habits, but we support lab safety culture in our own way—with the thoughtful construction of IonBenches, which incorporate several organizational aspects into their design.

To learn more about how our organization capacities can enhance your lab safety, contact us today.

Learning to Love Your Lab Safety Officer: Why Bother?

LSOLab safety officers – love them or hate them, you must respect the critical tasks they are charged with accomplishing. His or her most basic responsibility is for the safety of the lab, ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations dealing with technical subjects. The lab safety officer has an important role in training lab personnel to meet occupational safety and health standards. They also serve as a liaison between the lab and EH&S, to make sure the lab is in compliance, maintaining safety and regulatory information, including Material Safety Data Sheets. If there’s a question about regulatory information, the lab safety officer gets that information from EH&S. He or she has other functions, but these are some of the most significant.

Lab Safety Regulations Aren’t Just Nagging

When you see the job of the lab safety officer described in print, it’s easy to understand the importance of it. Day to day, however, the reality can be different. The lab safety officer is often an unpopular person around the facility, like a substitute teacher who stays all year. There’s a perception that the officer’s strict focus on safety regulations and paperwork get in the way of research progress. Lab safety officers can be especially disliked in industrial labs, where regulation is very strict.

In academic labs, the lab safety officer’s role is often taken less seriously because academic labs are not so strictly regulated. Unfortunately, 2016 brought plenty of evidence that lab safety should be a greater concern in academic labs. Serious accidents at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and Dickinson State University in North Dakota demonstrate the value of stricter safety standards in academic labs. It’s likely that the people involved in both these accidents believed they were safe enough, but as it turned out, they were not. The Hawaii incident, in particular, revealed systemic safety failures in the lab that had gone on for a long time.

Create a Culture of Lab Safety

Researchers are focused on results, and it’s understandable that they might view the lab safety officer’s efforts as nagging that gets in the way of achieving those results. But we’ve said it before: Lab safety should be embraced by everyone who works in your lab.

Create a culture of safety starting at the very top of the lab hierarchy that reaches down to the most junior member of the team. Getting past any adversarial relationships between the lab safety officer and members of your team is the first step. The lab safety officer really doesn’t want to interfere—he or she wants you and your people to maintain safe practices and a safe lab environment so you can achieve your research goals. Take their recommended steps, whether it’s wearing proper safety equipment every time or eliminating clutter down to the last scrap.

Another contributor to improved lab safety is IonBench dedicated laboratory furniture, which can alleviate several potential safety concerns, like noise and the heavy lifting of weighty mass spectrometers and HPLCs. Contact us to learn how our lab furniture can add an extra level of safety to your laboratory.