Tag Archives: lab safety

2018 Lab Safety Goal: Recognize Lab Noise as Serious Risk

RiskWe recently shared a disturbing report about the major gap between organizational culture and lab safety realities. We’ve all seen instances where company culture doesn’t exactly promote an environment where safety protocols can realistically be followed.

Petrotechnics surveyed over 200 senior leaders in the hydrocarbon industry and found that they held grave concerns over the lack of safety follow-through in their organizations. While company literature said all the right things about making safety a priority, the organizational procedures and practices did not hold up their end of the bargain when it came to following through on those priorities.

Most worrisome was the finding that the corporate culture in the majority of these organizations was actually resistant to implementation of process safety and risk management (PSM) procedures. This resistance is not necessarily rooted in carelessness or even maliciousness—rather, it is rooted in the natural tendency for corporations to drive productivity.

Let’s take this insight one step further and focus on a key concern of ours: lab noise reduction.

The Case for Lab Noise Reduction

A noisy lab is not just a threat to the ears of those who work there—though that is well-proven and certainly a necessary priority—it also linked with a range of diverse health issues. These include an increase in stress (with all its symptoms, including lack of sleep, short-temperedness, and an inability to concentrate, all of which can impact the interpretation of results in a critical lab procedure), coronary disease, hypertension and even our brain’s ability to process information correctly (again potentially leading to faulty test reporting).

Lab noise can interfere with critical communications, making it a safety hazard in a much different way. A noisy work environment makes verbal communications very difficult. And when lab personnel are dealing with potentially hazardous materials, there is very little room for error. What if a lab tech was to mishear instructions for handling a certain compound because the noise level in the lab was too high? This mishap could result in cross contamination, chemical burns, or even fires or explosions.

Integrating Lab Noise Reduction into Your Organizational Culture

We believe that lab noise reduction is a key ingredient in the lab safety recipe. Too many people, at all levels of an organization, can take their hearing and health for granted, choosing instead to focus on preventing the more spectacular lab accidents that make the news.

Noise doesn’t seem like an immediate threat or a potential major hazard—its impact is, however, insidious and lasting.

It’s why we’ve integrated lab noise reduction into our IonBench MS, which isolates up to three vacuum pumps in specially designed chambers of our custom designed lab furniture. With a lab noise reduction of over 75%, this dedicated lab furniture will minimize lab safety issues and facilitate efficient and accurate results by allowing everyone in the lab to hear each other, communicate clearly, and focus on research rather than PSM.

The more aware lab managers are to seemingly nonthreatening safety issues, the better the overall productivity of a lab and well-being of everyone there. We encourage you, and your team to embrace an integrated organizational culture that pays heed to even seemingly benign risks like lab noise. A well-thought-out lab noise reduction strategy can be a key element in effective lab safety culture. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.

PSM Study Reveals Concerning Lack of Lab Safety Culture

Lab WorkersWe recently came across an unsettling report that bears sharing. The source is a Petrotechnics survey conducted in the summer of 2017 on process safety and risk management (PSM). Over 200 senior hydrocarbon-industry leaders with responsibility for process safety, asset integrity and operational risk management, responded with a frank assessment of the safety culture—or lack thereof—within their organizations.

While these insights are taken specifically from the chemical processing industry, we think the significant findings could help remind us all of the importance of supporting lab safety.

Aligning Goals with Plans and Procedures

Much of what concerned us with this report was a significant gap between goals stated in various companies’ literature and the presence of actual plans and procedures that would fulfill those goals in their practices.

While almost all companies had goals related to risk reduction and supporting safety performance, 61% of those surveyed believe their organizations do not have sufficient safety indicators or safety performance measurements. There was also concern expressed by 54% of respondents that PSM is not incorporated into programs and strategies for operational excellence. Specifically, those respondents felt that there was a lack of operative, real-time solutions designed to monitor and manage divergences from expectations or performance standards.

Furthermore, the greatest source of resistance to PSM implementation listed was organizational culture, with an overwhelming 86% listing this as an issue. Fully three quarters of respondents listed maintenance and internal procedures as other hindrances to a fully functioning PSM environment.

Speaking the Truth about PSM Issues

The anonymously conducted survey allowed respondents to freely express their opinions. Several anonymous responses indicated that companies often value productivity over safety.

Specific quotes are telling:

“Process safety is specialized knowledge, not typically understood by operations and maintenance, leading to implementation gaps.”

 “Production takes priority over safety, which often leads to shortcuts and safety incidents, despite corporate safety policies.”

 “Corporate lip service to PSM policies that are not backed up with effective and efficient planned preventative maintenance.”

Particularly significant was that only 6% of respondents indicated that critical safety maintenance was up to date. Yikes.

Making Lab Safety a Priority at All Levels

This study hits close to home. We’ve all seen it before: People lose sight of the importance of planned safety procedures that are regularly tested and implemented. They instead focus on the end result, forgetting the importance of working within lab safety parameters.

As labs are renovated or expanded, project goals evolve, and managers can easily forget the importance of purchasing equipment and lab furniture that will reduce safety risks. Attention that should be paid to the enhancement of lab safety becomes focused elsewhere, and impactful practices and products are overlooked.

Stocking up on safety gear, maintaining a clean and organized space, minimizing noise to ensure clear communication, battling vibration to protect lab equipment—these details are still critical to lab safety.

Adopting a “safety first” mentality is integral and backed by the overwhelming consensus of those 86% responders who believe that an organization’s culture has the greatest impact on PSM. When you’re running a busy lab, and must meet budget and production quotas, it can be difficult to balance safety into the equation. We can help you get on your way to a lab that’s designed with safety in mind, just give us a call.

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.

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.

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.