Monthly Archives: November 2016

Sitting is the New Smoking: Lab Ergonomics and Dedicated Lab Furniture

ergonomicsPlenty of labs have experienced it: the mandatory health and safety lecture or reading material on ergonomics, the importance of posture, and the fact that “sitting is the new smoking.” Even if your lab doesn’t have a health and safety department to watch over it, the findings on ergonomics are still relevant, especially when considering that lab ergonomics have their own unique challenges.

So, in this post, we’re going to tackle the topic. Whether you’ve ever given your tight shoulders or strained lower back a second thought or not, there is a good chance that your lab is far from body-friendly, and dedicated lab furniture can relieve some of the strain. How so? Let us explain.

Strains and Stools [or Lab Calisthenics]

Let’s start with one of the ergonomic basics: You shouldn’t have to lift heavy objects higher than your shoulders. What would your health and safety officer say if they knew how the solvents in your HPLC are maintained? HPLC specific ergonomics require a high reach, with a heavy liter-sized bottle of solvent—a certain recipe for strained shoulders and an aching lower back. The usual answer is a stepstool, but those present their own tripping hazards in the lab.

Our ergonomic, dedicated lab furniture solution is the IonBench LC, which allows you to simply flip a switch for the entire bench—top-heavy machinery and all—to safely lower itself so you can reach the reservoir.

Local Motion

Another lab disaster waiting to happen is the careless shuffling around of lab equipment. Mass specs and HPLCs are terribly heavy equipment, but we still hear about lab workers attempting to move them by simply rounding up co-workers and telling them to lift or pull. Let your back (or safety officer) think about that for a minute. Also, if the MS is so sensitive that a nearby rock quarry can shorten its lifespan, you certainly don’t want to be shuddering it across the floor the way you would your kitchen table at home.

This is why all our lab benches come with industrial strength casters. We know the importance of a smooth, easy transition from one end of the lab to the other, and the basic kind of caster that comes on standard office furniture would never do the trick. If you’re investing in an expensive mass spectrometer, you need to invest in specifically designed dedicated lab furniture to help move it around your lab.

Stand Up with Our Dedicated Lab Furniture

That safety lecture or brochure is guaranteed to talk about the dangers of sitting for long periods of time and the perils of awkward positions while working. Of course, there are plenty of office furniture solutions if all you do is sit at a keyboard and type. But lab ergonomics? That’s a tougher problem—which is why we’ve come up with the IonDesk.

Since dedicated lab furniture is taller, at hip height, researchers and techs often sit on stools—which is not conducive to ergonomic posture, especially when you end up hunching over a microscope or leaning forward to read the fine print on a computer screen. And none of this addresses the fact that standing desks are all the rage for a reason: They allow people to stand and work (remember, sitting is the new smoking)—while lab benches fall mostly in that awkward area between sitting in an office chair and standing upright.

Like our IonBench LC, IonDesk easily raises and lowers with the flip of a switch. This means that you can change the desk’s height at any time, giving you the chance to smoothly move from sitting to standing and back again without disturbing anything on its surface. It also allows you to position the desk right next to other dedicated lab furniture and adjust the height to match, creating a single congruent surface—no more lost pens and small instruments falling in the cracks between work surfaces!

So, are you ready to make your safety officer (or simply your lab co-workers) happy with your lab ergonomics solutions? Contact us for answers to your questions about how dedicated lab furniture can improve safety in your laboratory.

Lab Safety in Real Life: Contrasting Television with Today’s Labs

lab-workBy now, most people in North America think they know what a research lab looks like. After all, CSI and television programs like it, have been showing us quiet, sterile, dramatically lit labs for years. With lots of room to maneuver and only one or two instruments on each spacious bench, they set a pretty high—indeed, impossibly high—standard for what the average person thinks today’s labs should look like.

We know better, and so do you. We bet that the reason for all that maneuvering room is the television cameras and director, not the lab techs. That dramatic lighting is—well, just for drama—we know a well-lit lab is needed to work safely and accurately. And then there are those benches. They aren’t dedicated lab furniture, and they’re certainly not crammed full of equipment. All of this illustrates one important thing to those who’ve spent any time in an actual research lab: Lab safety in real-life presents a very different picture.

Lab Safety Tragedies—Why They Matter

We previously posted here about the tragic death of Sheri Sangji and the ripple effect her case had on basic lab safety measures, as well as the training and supervision of students in university research labs. More recently, the University of Hawaii was fined $115,500 for 15 lab safety violations that might have contributed to postdoctoral researcher Thea Ekins-Coward losing her arm in an explosion earlier this year.

These are tragic circumstances, and fortunately they are unusual. But the very fact they occur at all proves our point: You can’t ignore lab safety. Whether we’re talking about combining highly flammable chemicals or handling dangerous pathogens, every possible lab safety precaution must be taken.

Dedicated Lab Furniture Is Part of the Solution

This is why we have meticulously crafted our IonBenches. Our dedicated lab furniture solutions focus on addressing the everyday problems presented in real-life labs. We do this by isolating mass spec vacuum pumps in specifically designed chambers at the base of the bench, reducing noise by 75% and thereby making it easier for researchers to hear each other speak. The enclosure also prevents pump oil from leaking out onto the floor where it could cause a slip-and-fall incident.

We reduce clutter with our cable and hose-gathering grommets (you’ve never seen a power cord on CSI, have you?!) and optional drawers to store columns, tools, manuals and other miscellaneous objects that could get in the way. And rearranging equipment is a more efficient process because all our dedicated lab furniture is built with locking casters. This makes it very easy to move an instrument into place when needed, and wheel it out of the way when you’re finished, creating at least a semblance of all that nice maneuvering space you see in television labs.

Keeping Real-Life Labs as Safe as Possible

We would never claim that our dedicated lab furniture will prevent every tragedy, but we do claim that your research lab’s safety will be improved when you use the right tools for the right job. Those right tools include our IonBenches for your MS and HPLC. To discuss making a lab safety investment in dedicated lab furniture, request a quote today.