All posts by Tim Hawkins

Office Noise Safety Study Results Have Bearing for Lab Safety Too

Many studies on standard office work environments have little correlation with the lab environment — but there are exceptions to every rule. The results of a recent study of 1,200 employees and executives, conducted by Oxford Economics and Plantronics, reveal some helpful understandings about workplace noise that impacts lab safety as well as the office milieu.

Focusing without Interruptions

One goal of the study was to examine the impact of open-plan workspaces, which are increasingly the norm for office construction. Since many labs feature open-plan workspaces, the results of this study are particularly relevant for lab safety. The study revealed one of the most important priorities for workers was the ability to focus without interruptions. Many of the perks and amenities, such as free food and a place to relax, were much less important than the ability to work effectively.

Unfortunately, open office plans do not facilitate that ability to focus. Conversations amongst colleagues and the compound effects of simple sounds like drawers closing and technology humming have created a noisy workspace where employees find it difficult to concentrate. Furthermore, executives — who have retained their private offices — are not aware of the prevalence of both noise and employee discomfort with it.

Millennials and Lab Safety

Another aspect of this study focused on the role of technology and constant connectivity. The survey included 300 Millennial employees who were more likely than their older colleagues to find noise — especially ambient noise — to be a distraction at work. They are also more likely to take steps to avoid that noise, either through listening to music on headsets or leaving the office in order to find a quieter place to work.

In the lab environment, both of those finding could cause problems. From a lab safety perspective, headsets that can drown out ambient noise could also prevent the wearer from hearing words spoken by others. In the case of a lab safety accident, this can have serious consequences. Obviously, lab workers cannot leave the lab and still get their work done since their job often relies on sensitive, integrated equipment that must remain in the lab rather than moved around in the way that a laptop can be picked up and taken to another part of the office complex.

Technology and Noise Safety

Another interesting finding in this study relates to the role of technology in the workplace. Technology integration is, in the study’s words, “a work in progress.” Employees are expected to stay connected with the office on their tech devices at all times, but a full 40% say that there is no seamless integration between their home and office tools. At one level, this is less of a concern for the lab environment and lab safety because staff are limited in what they can take home to work on.

On the other hand, the constant push for connectivity can become in itself a lab safety issue. The study found that connectivity breeds compulsive behavior, which can lead to burnout. This burnout can have severe lab safety consequences when levels of noise and distractions lead to unfocused work and workplace accidents. Employees who retreat into their tech devices to escape noise are more likely to be distracted by their tech and oblivious to what is happening around them.

The results of this study confirm the need to address noise safety by minimizing noise in the lab. This is why our dedicated lab furniture includes vacuum pump enclosures that decrease noise by 75%. To learn more about how noise safety measures and dedicated lab furniture can make a difference in your lab, contact Tim Hawkins at 1-888-669-1233 or by email:  tim.hawkins@farhawk.com.

 

Lab Safety Issues Aren’t Always Obvious or Catastrophic

We frequently talk about safety in the lab on our blog and periodically share news about accidents that bring attention to the issue of lab safety. We do this to remind busy researchers that some safety issues can be addressed by investing in high-quality dedicated lab furniture. Other safety issues are sometimes not as simple.

Not All Accidents are Obvious

And not all accidents are catastrophic. Some of the most insidious lab accidents, in fact, occur over time. As we have pointed out in the past, even moderate levels of noise in the lab can have hidden, adverse effects on the health and well-being of staff. Long-term noise exposure wears down a body’s system in multiple ways, causing stress and a multitude of silent secondary illnesses like cardiovascular disease and sleep loss.

A Recent Insidious Lab Accident

Noise is not the only insidious cause of lab incidents. As we learned recently, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York experienced a lab safety accident that could have resulted in the loss of her sight. She was inspecting agarose gels under UV light, not wearing goggles, and did not know that a simple plastic cover on the UV light screen needed to be closed to protect both her eyes and her skin.

Over the course of just a few months, she suffered significant damage to her eyes. A trip to the hospital and many visits with a specialist followed. Two incorrect diagnoses slowed the process of addressing this lab safety issue. While the good news is that this student suffered no long-term permanent sight damage, the accident clearly illustrates the dangers of hidden lab safety issues.

Improving Lab Safety with Guidelines, Notices, and Meetings

Fortunately, Columbia University took a series of concrete steps to address the causes of this lab accident. First, they updated their existing lab safety guidelines to include safety information and precautions related to ultraviolet equipment. At each UV workstation, they placed goggles in a prominent location and added warning signs about UV dangers.

They also focused on conversation and collaboration. They held a series of meetings with staff from the university’s office of environmental health and safety. Those meetings focused on both the specific concerns of working in that particular lab and on the identification of general hazards. Lab workers also met together and discussed the accident. Then they went further. Each person shared which lab safety hazards they focused on, recognizing that no one person usually considers everything. By doing this, every staff member heard about the variety of hazards within the lab.

Including Dedicated Lab Furniture in the Lab Safety Conversation

Hopefully some member of that university lab team mentioned noise as a lab safety issue. Like UV light, noise is often taken for granted in a lab because its dangers aren’t obvious. This is why we designed our MS dedicated lab furniture with two vacuum pump enclosures that eliminate the noise from those pumps by 75%. To learn more about how dedicated lab furniture can prevent insidious lab accidents, contact Tim Hawkins at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233.

What to Do Before Your Lab Furniture Arrives

Are your mass spectrometry needs increasing? If you’re having conversations about ordering a new mass spec, make sure to order your new lab bench at the same time. Standard delivery of our dedicated lab furniture takes 2–3 weeks. This way, you can receive the lab bench in plenty of time to have it set up and waiting for your mass spec when it arrives. (If you’ve recently ordered a new mass spectrometer, call us for details on rush delivery.)

Just don’t forget, you need to prepare for the arrival of that mass spec lab furniture as well. Here are our tips for preparing the space for your new IonBench dedicated lab furniture.

Tip #1: Check for a Good Fit

Naturally you’re going to measure the space where you want your new equipment and lab bench to be installed. But don’t forget the prep work involved in getting your new bench to that installation point. As we’ve talked about in a prior post, you need to check the dimensions of every step of the journey from loading dock to installation point.

One question we frequently get is whether our IonBenches come pre-assembled. The answer is yes. As we discuss in the delivery section of our FAQs page, our IonBenches are delivered fully assembled and ready to use. While some additional items, like monitor arms, are installed on-site, the benches themselves are delivered in one piece, so you will need plenty of room to get it through doorways and down hallways.

Tip #2: Prepare for Uncrating Your Dedicated Lab Furniture

Another consideration is the uncrating of your new lab bench. We are responsible only for the delivery of your new lab furniture, but we keep a list of reliable third-party vendors that can uncrate your bench, dispose of the packing materials, and transfer the IonBench into your lab location. If you need those services, just let us know and we’ll recommend a team to help you.

Tip #3: Ask about Insurance

It’s a good idea that anyone who touches any part of your mass spectrometry system be fully bonded and insured. Many labs require it. This is especially important if space requirements demand that your new dedicated lab furniture be delivered uncrated. In large cities like Boston and New York, where space is at a premium and loading docks are usually compressed, goods often must be delivered completely uncrated.

Because of this, we suggest that you make certain every individual or team that’s responsible for any portion of the delivery and installation process be both bonded and insured. We assure you that we are fully bonded and insured for our part in the manufacturing and delivery process.

Do you have other questions about the delivery and installation of dedicated lab furniture? Tim Hawkins can answer them. Contact him at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233 to discuss the particular needs of your organization.

Four More Reasons You Need Mobile Lab Furniture

In our last post, we extolled the virtues of mobile lab furniture and discussed why it’s beneficial for safe and smooth functionality in your lab. In case you weren’t convinced by the first set of rationale, here are four additional reasons why standard, stationary lab furniture is not as good as an IonBench for modern labs.

Reason 5: Expand Laboratory Capacity

Expansion can be a tricky issue and can disrupt the organization in your lab. Sometimes additional work is temporary, or you’re fulfilling a short-term contract with funding that might not be renewed. You can’t afford to permanently expand your lab, but you need additional processing capacity—and you need it stat. This is where mobile lab furniture shines.

Perhaps there is not enough space around your existing, permanent lab fixtures to install another instrument. Maybe additional permanent dedicated lab furniture is not within budgetary parameters. Mobile lab furniture can accommodate expansion, then be tucked into a safe, out-of-the-way location until it is needed again, the next time your lab needs to flex its capacity.

Reason 6: Take Renovations in Stride

Even if expansion or renovation is possible, that raises another set of significant problems and issues. If your lab is undergoing renovation, how will you keep up with current demand? The answer is with mobile lab furniture, which can be used to easily move entire systems to temporary quarters, where current processes can continue uninterrupted during the renovation period. They can also be easily returned to the renovated space and rearranged with ease as you determine the best configurations for utilizing your upgraded lab environment.

Reason 7: Easily Align with Utilities

Any renovation or new lab project will give you the opportunity to place utilities exactly where you want and need them, but changing instruments will inevitably bring challenges. Standard dedicated lab furniture that doesn’t move easily can keep the new instrument apart from those utilities. Fortunately, mobile lab furniture makes it easy to move any instrument to meet the utilities. This means no need for the additional expense of rerouting gas lines or installing additional outlets. This solution also prevents the possibility of lab accidents, which can occur if shortcuts such as extension cords or tubes were employed instead.

Reason 8: Simplify Cleaning

Accidents happen. Spills can be hazardous, be it the chemicals or the broken containers. It is critical that any cleanup be timely, thorough and complete. With standard furniture or even some dedicated lab furniture, cleanup is difficult because the lab benches are impossible to move and it is tricky to be certain that the spill was completely removed. With mobile lab furniture, it’s easy and straightforward to move the instrument or even the entire system, clean all sides of the IonBench thoroughly, then return the instruments to their proper location and resume work quickly and efficiently.

Have we convinced you of the many benefits of mobile lab furniture? If you still have questions or are ready to get started, please contact Tim Hawkins at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233. He can discuss your specific lab situation and offer suggestions on how to best configure dedicated lab furniture in your lab.

Some Reasons You Need Mobile Lab Furniture

Where would we be without our mobile phones? We can keep in touch with loved ones and coworkers, do research, choose restaurants, pay for nearly everything—all from the convenience of our phones, wherever we are. This gives us maximum flexibility in living busy lives. Mobility is a key concept these days—and it applies to your lab as well. With mobile lab furniture, you have maximum flexibility in keeping a busy lab working smoothly, safely and efficiently.

Not so sure about that? Here are four reasons why you need mobile lab furniture like our IonBenches.

Reason 1: Simplify Service

How many times have you performed calisthenics in your lab, trying to get at the back of an instrument in order to perform service or routine maintenance, or check that wires and cords aren’t being pinched? Some labs solve this problem by leaving a service corridor behind all the dedicated lab furniture. What they make up for in convenience, however, they lose in space because that 12- to-18-inch corridor is a waste of valuable space in a cramped lab.

However, if your dedicated lab furniture comes with casters, you can keep your mobile lab furniture against the wall (where it’s also more stable and less likely to be knocked over if someone bumps into it). With IonBench, you can safely, easily move the entire system away from the wall whenever you need to access the back of the unit.

Reason 2: Take Your System to the Process

Process optimization often requires fast turnarounds. With mobile lab furniture, you don’t have to draw samples and then get them delivered to the lab in a timely fashion. Instead, take your entire MS system to the processing point and complete the entire procedure in one place. By utilizing mobile lab furniture, you can keep utilities and peripheral instruments safely connected and simplify at-source monitoring.

Reason 3: Optimize Peripheral Placement

Workflow is key to an organized and efficient lab. While it’s great to have your mass spec mobilized on one of our IonBenches, don’t forget the peripherals. When you move your LC closer to the source, you can improve throughput by as much as 10%. With mobile lab furniture, it’s easy to move that LC back out of the way when it’s not needed, or easily connect it with another process in a different part of the lab.

Reason 4: Rearrange Your Lab Whenever You Need

A significant challenge to efficiency is rapidly changing priorities. In order to prioritize customer service, it’s frequently necessary to reorganize workflow and process priorities. With mobile lab furniture, it’s easy to accommodate those changes by simply moving systems and peripherals around the lab, and even around the building. When your dedicated lab furniture doesn’t move, it’s much more difficult to imagine reconfiguring your lab to meet evolving needs.

If these four reasons haven’t fully convinced you of the mobile lab furniture benefits, stay tuned. In our next post, we’ll share four more reasons why your dedicated lab furniture should come with strong casters attached. Meanwhile, we invite you to contact Tim Hawkins at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233 to discuss how your lab might best be configured with dedicated lab furniture.

Not All Dedicated Lab Furniture is Built the Same Way

There are many reasons why a lab work space is different than that of your typical work environment. Most don’t handle dangerous chemicals on a regular basis, for example. Nor are they noisy, sometimes chaotic environments with loud instruments that are heavy enough to cause bodily harm. For those reasons and more, we believe labs should always be treated differently than other work environments—and that includes the furniture used.

Strong, resistant dedicated lab furniture is key for safety and efficiency in a lab. But once you start shopping for lab benches, you will discover there are differences in what’s available. We get a lot of questions about what makes our dedicated lab furniture different from the rest. Read on to find out the answers, based on information provided by our IonBench expert, Tim Hawkins.

Chem-res: Not Your Average Laminate

Whether it’s on television crime shows or in your own lab, you’ll find that the typical color of lab bench surfaces is black. That color isn’t there to make a fashion statement. It’s the result of constructing the benches with Chem-res, a specially designed epoxy resin that’s universally recognized and accepted by staff and researchers around the world. Chem-res actually comes in a number of different formulas, each manufactured to stand up to the particular needs of certain lab situations.

When shopping for dedicated lab furniture, don’t assume every black laminate is Chem-res. Ask to be sure. Also, explain what specific substances your lab bench surface needs to be protected from, and the instrument weights the bench will need to withstand. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, contact Tim Hawkins at 1-888-669-1233.

Upgrading Dedicated Lab Furniture with Trespa

But that just scratches the surface (ahem). If you need your mass spectrometry lab furniture to withstand high acid exposure on a regular basis, we can further improve your IonBench. For example, if your research involves inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, we can easily customize your bench by exchanging the Chem-res surface for one made of acid-resistant Trespa.

Why We Avoid Metal in Our Mass Spectrometry Benches

Something else that makes IonBenches different in the world of dedicated lab furniture is that we minimize metal in their construction.

Metals, being good conductors, also transmit vibrations. When you’re working with sensitive instruments, such as mass spectrometry technology, vibrations shorten the life of those machines.

For this reason, we manufacture our IonBench MS with laminated wood. Not only is this material strong enough to support the weight of mass spectrometry instruments, but it’s also capable of absorbing vibrations, keeping your instruments tuned to the peak of efficiency.

As you can see, many considerations go into each component of a good lab bench (to learn more, click here). Plus, every aspect of our IonBenches is carefully constructed to meet the particular needs of mass spectrometry.

To learn more about our IonBenches and ask Tim Hawkins your questions, contact him at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233.

Answering Your Questions: Why Dedicated Lab Furniture Is Worth the Price

As you might imagine, we get a lot of questions from lab managers and other professionals who are researching furniture for their labs. First-time buyers of dedicated lab furniture for mass spectrometry, HPLC, and related instruments often bring up some excellent points. Tim Hawkins, our IonBench expert, hears one question frequently: “Why can’t I build a good MS bench myself?” Read on, for our multi-part answer to this commonly asked question.

Yes, You Could, But…

The short answer to the above question is, “Well, actually you could build something similar yourself.” You could go to your local home improvement warehouse store, pick up similar, but likely less quality materials, and construct a basic piece of lab furniture on your own. You could build a sturdy table and make it the size and shape you need for the portion of your lab that’s set aside for mass spectrometry. You might even save a little money in the process.

However, there’s a lot more to developing a reliable and safe piece of dedicated lab furniture than what we just mentioned—which is why our IonBenches cost more than what you might build yourself.

Designing the Best Dedicated Lab Furniture

Let’s begin by talking about the design. We’ve seen a lot of labs in action and we understand how to make our IonBenches function efficiently in any lab configuration or situation. We know what types of electrical and other connections need to be included in the design and where they should enter and exit the bench without getting in the way of the mass spectrometer or becoming pinched or rubbed when the bench is moved.

We understand that mass spectrometry involves supporting the significant weight of these instruments while also allowing you to safely move your instrument around the lab. This is why we build our MS benches with strong, sturdy caster wheels—to keep your benches mobile and your procedures always moving forward.

Using the Right Materials for Mass Spectrometry

The materials used in our dedicated lab furniture—like those caster wheels—are another key component of our successful IonBenches. Mass spectrometry involves heat, oil, and a lot of noise from the roughing pumps. If you build a basic cabinet with materials from a home improvement store, you’re potentially introducing lab safety hazards that could result in a fire or accident.

For example, not all foams and laminates—and the glues that hold them—are up to the task. Can those materials tolerate the heat that is generated by roughing pumps? Remember, those pumps have to be put in some kind of insulated cabinet in order to keep lab noise down to a workable—and safe—level. Basic residential foam insulation and laminate choices also may not be able to handle the oils and various chemicals found in modern labs.

Valuing Expertise and Experience

There is a final reason why we believe you should leave the building of dedicated lab furniture to the experts. Just as expertise is key to the success of your lab procedures, the same is true with the building of lab benches.

As research professionals, you have been trained to run samples or manage the people who do. Through your education and experience, you have learned what’s required to run a lab in a safe and efficient manner. But chances are that education and experience, while considerable, didn’t include learning how to construct reliable, safe, and efficient lab benches. In other words, you’re better off spending time doing the things you’re paid to do.

In the end, it comes down to efficiency as much as anything else: Why spend your time and energy attempting to do something you haven’t been trained to do when you can instead rely on the dedicated lab furniture professionals at IonBench, who are experts in their field?

To discuss more of the advantages of our mass spectrometry furniture—or ask any other questions you may have—Tim Hawkins will be glad to help you. Please reach out to him at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 1-888-669-1233.

Why Modular Lab Design Concepts Make Sense for Any Lab

Trends come and go—and it can be beneficial to understand the reasons behind the rise and fall of new ideas.

One of the hottest new developments is modularity. This trend began with government requests for modular lab units that could be easily packed up and shipped to new locations as needs changed.

While you might not need to pack up your lab for delivery to the newest natural disaster or environmental testing site, many of the principles behind this trend can be useful for our own lab design, especially for the purposes of renovation or expansion.

Modular Lab Design: Adapting to Changing Demands

One reason to embrace the concepts behind modular lab design is that they facilitate adaptability. Equipment, task, and mission changes occur frequently, and a modular approach to lab design allows managers to more easily and efficiently adapt to those changing demands.

Also, with a modular approach, renovations can more easily replace outdated facilities and equipment. Localizing vacuum systems, installing ductless fume hoods, and upgrading to movable dedicated lab furniture all contribute to a lab design that’s easier to modify as needs change.

Dedicated Lab Furniture Designed for Safety

With the right dedicated lab furniture, your modular approach to lab design provides additional benefits. Lab safety, for instance, is always a key consideration. Every module must connect with the next in a pattern that allows for free and easy movement between portions of the lab—and out the doors in the case of an accident.

Our IonBenches come on caster wheels so that they can be easily moved around the lab, even with heavy, expensive mass spectrometry equipment installed on top. Well-placed dedicated lab furniture also ensures that technicians don’t bump into each other at critical moments due to awkwardly positioned or inferior furniture.

The Flexibility of Modular Design

Beyond addressing lab safety concerns, lab furniture should also be specifically designed to meet the dynamic, changing needs of busy labs. In the same way that modular configurations accommodate the particular needs of specific researchers or projects, our IonBenches can be quickly moved to address new parameters or requirements. Plus, our custom additions provide additional storage drawers and specialized hardware for mounting computers and other instruments.

Choose the Right Partner for Your Project

Whether you are creating a modular lab design from scratch or looking to refresh an aging lab to meet present-day demands, finding the right information can be a challenge. Often, a simple online comparison won’t allow you to sufficiently determine the best fit between your particular lab design needs and the lab furniture available.

That’s why you should contact our expert, Tim Hawkins. He specializes in understanding the needs of modern labs, including the trend toward modular lab designs, and can help you with dedicated lab furniture that will meet your needs now and, in the years—and lab design changes—ahead. Contact Tim at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 888-669-1233 today to discuss your specific requirements.

The Ubiquitous Decibel: Noise Safety Uses and Abbreviations

Workers, including lab personnel, tend to develop their own internal lingo in professional settings, where colleagues often work alongside each other for years. While lab shorthand can be useful—and sometimes even entertaining—it’s no substitute for clear communication using well-defined terms, especially where lab safety is concerned.

In a prior post, we took a look at the history and early usage of the decibel, a humble and ubiquitous term that’s used in many conversations about noise safety in the lab. This time around we want to consider some of the ways decibel measurements are used in scientific situations. We’ll also cover some of the most common decibel abbreviations, which could figure into lab safety discussions concerning noise.

The Pressure of Sound

Decibels are used to measure sound in a surprising number of capacities. As we discussed previously, humans often perceive noise in terms of intensity. Particularly loud noise has been described, for example, as “a wall of sound.” Sound intensity or “sound pressure level” (SPL) is measured in decibels (dB). A measurement of 0 dB corresponds to an SPL of 0.0002 microbars, which is the point at which humans without hearing loss are able to perceive a sound.

Since our ears’ hearing capacity, as well as decibel measurements, increase logarithmically (by a factor of 10), 120 dB—which is beyond the noise safety level of 85 dBA, as determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—describes a change in sound pressure level of  compared to the 0 dB threshold level.

But the dB isn’t just used for measuring sound. For example, amateur radio is another place where decibels matter. Electronic and radio circuits must be able to handle signal levels that vary by many orders of magnitude. High frequency (HF) band signal strength is measured in S units, which correspond to a change in strength of between 5 and 6 dB. However, most amateur radios are not calibrated to the high degree necessary in modern lab equipment, and the standard change in signal strength of one S unit is generally considered to be 4 dB.

Abbreviations Matter

Sound and amateur radio are just two examples of decibels in action, but there are actually more uses. You will note that in many circumstances, the “dB” is followed by an additional abbreviation (as in the OSHA noise safety limit mentioned above). Such abbreviations indicate a specific reference value. For example, power levels are given in dBm, where “m” stands for milliwatt. Here, 0 dBm corresponds to 1 milliwatt of power, while 10 dBm correlates to 10 milliwatts. These reference numbers are frequently used to make system calculations easier and to indicate which capacity the dB measurement is being used in.

Noise Safety and dBA

The decibel suffix that occurs most frequently in our work at IonBench involves an appended “A”—written dBA, dBa, or dB(a). This stands for “adjusted” and is the relative noise safety level as perceived by the human ear. “A” refers to a necessary adjustment to reduce the decibel values of sounds at low frequencies, in comparison to unweighted decibels at higher frequencies. This adjustment is made because the human ear is less sensitive to low audio frequencies, especially below 1,000 Hz.

Talking Lab Safety

We hope you have found this decibel primer helpful. We know that sometimes the human perception of an indefinable “wall of sound” can make it difficult to discuss aspects of noise safety. Perhaps this overview of decibels can help facilitate internal lab discussions going forward, making lab safety conversations easier to have and to understand.

If you have further questions about decibels or the dedicated lab furniture we’ve crafted to minimize sound hazards in your lab, contact Tim Hawkins today at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 888-669-1233.

The Decibel: An Important Term in Lab Safety

We talk a lot about noise in this blog, for very good reason: A quieter lab is a safer lab. Lab safety requires being able to easily hear and understand your fellow lab workers, so we engineer our dedicated lab furniture to make your lab quieter.

In order to talk about sound and noise, however, you need the proper terminology. The decibel, often abbreviated as dB, is a frequent term in posts where we talk about noise safety in the lab. Let’s take a closer look at the humble decibel—where it came from, what it means, and why it’s so ubiquitous in discussions about noise and lab safety.

History of the Term ‘Decibel’

Where does the term “decibel” comes from? Modern efforts to measure sound volume originated in the need to quantify signal loss over telephone lines and telegraph cables. Early terms included MSC (for miles of standard cable) and TU (for transmission unit).

Eventually, the Bell System renamed the TU as the decibel, classifying it as one-tenth (hence the “deci”) of a “bel” (which was named after Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone—The full scientific name of the bel is the Alexander Bell which explains why the B in “dB” is capitalized).

Understanding the Decibel

In the National Bureau of Standards Yearbook of 1931, decibel was defined as follows:

The decibel may be defined by the statement that two amounts of power differ by 1 decibel when they are in the ratio of 100.1 and any two amounts of power differ by N decibels when they are in the ratio of 10N(0.1). The number of transmission units expressing the ratio of any two powers is therefore ten times the common logarithm of that ratio.

The bel signifies the logarithm of a 10:1 ratio between two power quantities (the ratio of measured power to reference power), or the logarithm of a ratio between two field quantities (the ratio of the squares of measured field and reference field) of √10:1.

The Spread of Decibel Usage in Addressing Noise Safety Situations

Over the decades since, the decibel has become a common standard of measurement for a variety of situations, including assessing noise safety for labs and other workplace environments. The decibel measures acoustics (as a unit of sound pressure), perception (as a measurement of intensity for both sound and light), optics (to measure loss over an optical link), and electronics (to measure amplitude ratios).

As we’ve noted previously, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s noise safety standards are measured in decibels. While the International Committee for Weights and Measures declined to include the decibel in the International System of Units, it is recognized by other international bodies, including the International Electrotechnical Commission and the International Organization for Standardization.

Connecting the Decibel with Lab Safety

In terms of lab safety, fewer dBs of noise is an important goal. That is where our dedicated lab furniture can make a big difference. Like the decibel itself, human perception of sound—especially sounds that intensify annoyance or hinder efficiency—seems to increase almost exponentially.

The sound of vacuum pumps and other mass spectrometry equipment can quickly contribute to noise safety hazards in the lab, especially when layered over the sounds of fume hoods, air conditioning and handling equipment, and essential conversations. However, our IonBenches are guaranteed to produce a 15 dBA reduction in roughing-pump noise. To find out other ways our dedicated lab furniture can enhance your lab’s safety, get in touch with Tim Hawkins at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 888-669-1233.

PS: Do you know why a letter like “A” often follows “dB”? Stay tuned for our next post, which will explain dB suffixes, as well as various ways to use the dB measurement.