If you read our blog, you probably know we take lab safety seriously at QuietBench. We created our dedicated lab furniture to address important safety concerns in the lab, including noise levels, overheating concerns, and even the possibility that your HPLC could topple over if the lab bench it’s sitting on is bumped too hard.
Lab benches aren’t the only safety devices in a laboratory however, so from time to time we like to focus on safety tips for other common items found in your labs. While these don’t directly impact our laboratory furniture, we want to keep safety in the forefront of the minds of all our readers.
Lab Safety Tips for Chemical Hoods
This time, we are taking a close look at chemical, or “fume,” hoods from a lab safety standpoint.
As the primary control devices for protecting lab techs who work with toxic and flammable chemicals, these hoods are present in many labs. And as with many other devices that we use on a regular basis, they can be taken for granted and not treated like the critical protective devices they are.
Before You Begin
Before anyone in your lab uses your chemical hood, make sure that they’ve been properly trained to operate the device. Many lab accidents are the result of incomplete training, erroneous understanding, or disregard of the guidelines for operating such safety devices.
It’s also important not to presume that experienced techs who are new to your lab understand how your fume hood works. Every device is different, and every tech and researcher should be properly trained.
Equally important to proper training is understanding the chemicals with which you will be working. Material safety data sheets exist for a reason; use them, especially if you haven’t handled a particular chemical for a while.
Finally, make sure that your chemical hood is turned on, that air is flowing within the proper range, and that the sash is open to the proper operating level.
Chemical Hood Dos
When you begin work with your chemical hood, there are a number of things you need to be aware of. Do always wear eye protection. Make sure that nothing blocks airflow, both within the hood and through the baffle exhaust slots. Do keep all materials at least 6 inches beyond the sash opening, and elevate large equipment at least 2 inches off the hood’s interior work surface.
If you’re working with particularly hazardous materials, do also take the time to review your lab’s emergency evacuation plan. While the fume hood is an excellent lab safety device, unexpected situations, such as a power failure, can turn a normal day at the lab into a true emergency.
Chemical Hood Don’ts
One big lab safety don’t with a fume hood is to let your head get inside the plane of the hood opening. If your device has a vertical rising sash, keep it below your face to minimize the possibility of getting too close. If your hood has a horizontal sliding sash, keep it in front of you and work around the sides.
You also don’t want to use any fume hood that is not functioning properly. Don’t just unplug it and walk away, either. Take the time to tag it, take it out of service, and begin the repair procedure right away. Chemical hoods are vital in so many research labs that hood downtime can have a major impact on project workflow.
Finally, don’t treat your fume hood as storage space. Never store chemicals in the hood; everything should always be locked away in dedicated lab furniture designed to keep it stored safely and securely until it is needed again.