Have 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.