Monthly Archives: August 2017

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.