Addressing Lab Safety at the Noise Source

Quietbench_Lab_Noise_Sources_1It’s true that noise can be one of the less-obvious lab safety issues. Flashy chemical reactions, fires, and sloppy mistakes may make great press, but it’s the slow-and-steady issues that are more often the culprits when it comes to lost time—and thus productivity—in the lab workplace.

We’ve explained in detail how the decibel system works, and the elements that make up a dBA rating. We’ve talked about OSHA’s rules and regulations with regard to noise in the workplace. In this post, we’ll focus on some specific sources of lab noise, and the cures that can help reduce those noises, thus keeping everyone in your lab happier, healthier and safely at work where they belong.

External and Internal Noises

Of course, some noises in the lab environment are beyond your control. Ambient noise from the surrounding area can have a definite impact on the overall noise level in your lab. This is certainly true if your building is situated in an industrial area, but it could also be true if you were to set up your lab out in the countryside, where tractors and trains might be the problem, instead of car horns and industrial machines.

In addition to external noise sources, there are likely to be noises inherent in the lab that will contribute to the overall noise level of the working environment. Ringing telephones—no matter what the ringtone—will contribute to the environment, as will any piped-in music or radios, along with the necessary conversations taking place amongst the various working groups within the lab.

Lab Equipment as a Lab Safety Problem

But the largest culprit when it comes to noise tends to be the equipment you use in your lab. Refrigerators and freezers, fume hoods and compressors, stirring motors and centrifuges all contribute to the level of noise in a lab. MS vacuum pumps and nitrogen gas generators also contribute to the overall noise, until it seems practically impossible to carry on a reasonable conversation.

Additionally, all of this equipment is not created equally. While some equipment, such as fume hoods, run constantly, others work periodically—refrigerators, for example—or intermittently, such as LC pneumatic sample injectors. This means that the amount of noise in any lab is constantly changing, and therefore more difficult to address.

Controlling Lab Noise with Dedicated Mass Spectrometry Benches

One of the best ways to control lab noise is to start with the design of the lab itself. By working with the lab architect, you can insure it will meet OSHA standards and other safety protocols. However, if you’re dealing with an existing lab, you are limited in what you can do to prevent external noise from getting in, or to use sound-deadening materials in the lab’s construction.

But you can address the specific lab equipment you use, and find ways to keep the noise of that equipment below a critical hearing-loss threshold. One specific way to do this is with dedicated mass spectrometry benches. Our IonBench MS encloses the loudest part of a mass spec—the vacuum pumps—which makes the entire machine much quieter.

Another avenue to lab safety is through innovative technology. For example, new oil-less rotary scroll in-house nitrogen gas generators compress ambient air with much less noise, as well as preventing pollution of your LC/MS system with oil. Using a rotary scroll system actually decreases the noise level from an average of 55-60 dBA to as low as 49 dBA. Since the decibel scale is weighted, this is a large decrease in noise—and therefore a significant increase in lab safety.

So if your lab is noisy, consider what dedicated lab furniture and new technologies can do to increase lab safety in your workplace. To learn more about the safety features built into our IonBench MS, contact us today or complete our online form to request a quote.