All posts by Tim Hawkins

Snorkels, Ventilation and Lab Safety

Snorkels don’t just turn up at the beach. They also have an important, and sometimes controversial use in lab safety. These local exhaust extractors can be useful for removing heat, but snorkels are, by design, an open system. This makes them less than ideal for removing harmful vapors from your lab. Here is some of the controversy surrounding snorkels, as well as an effective use when attached to dedicated lab furniture, like our IonBenches.

Why Are Snorkels Controversial?

As noted, snorkels operate as an open system and are therefore tough to test for actual effectiveness. While they may draw a certain cubic feet per second, that figure is dependent on the air pressure in the room and can be influenced by other devices that may be operating in the lab.

If you seek to attach a snorkel to a fume hood, you must have one designed for that purpose—this might be an expensive replacement for minimal gain. Different velocities are needed to evacuate different materials. For these reasons and more, it’s always best to enclose the entire procedure in a fume hood to allow for safe and effective ventilation and preserve lab safety.

Why Are Snorkels a Lab Safety Issue?

Snorkels are loud. A typical snorkel can add 60 dBA or more to the noise level in your lab—especially since staff must work very close to the snorkel in order for it to be effective. We’ve discussed in prior posts the lab safety issues that arise in a noisy lab.

We’ve also heard that the noise is sometimes loud enough that staff turn off the snorkels. This creates a larger problem if HVAC controls for the room have been set on the presumption that multiple snorkels are in use. When you turn off those snorkels, the room can shift from negative to positive pressure, creating an environmental lab safety issue.

Why Snorkels Can Work When Properly Attached to Dedicated Lab Furniture

Snorkels are not ideal for many types of lab work, but they can be effective for venting hot air. Your mass spec is far too big to fit under a fume hood, but it does generate a lot of heat from within the bench itself. This is why we have designed two different heat ventilation features for our dedicated lab furniture to cool it with safety in mind.

The first ventilation feature for our IonBench MS comes standard with every piece of dedicated lab furniture designed for mass specs. It consists of four to six fans built into the back of the bench to safely ventilate heat from the roughing pumps. The second ventilation feature can easily connect to a well-designed snorkel. Our Heat Removal Module allows for a direct connection to a snorkel or to your building’s main heat exhaust system.

Would you like to learn more about how our dedicated lab furniture can support lab safety by efficiently evacuating excess heat and odors? Contact Tim Hawkins today via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Recognizing a Noise Safety Researcher

Yes, we manufacture dedicated lab furniture. We also care about the health and well-being of the researchers who use our lab benches. This is why we post occasional news about lab safety, noise safety, and preventable lab accidents. This time we’re focusing on the long-term work done by a naval researcher who recently won an important award for his noise safety research.

The Safe-in-Sound Award

The honor is the Safe-in-Sound award, which was created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Hearing Conservation Association. The award is focused on recognizing excellence in hearing-loss prevention. This year’s winner, Kurt Yankaskas, manages the Office of Naval Research’s noise-induced hearing-loss program. His focus is on reducing and mitigating the prolonged exposure to high levels of noise that many sailors encounter in the line of duty.

Noise Safety Challenges in the U.S. Navy

Naval vessels and shipyards are noisy places. Sailors work alongside machines that routinely exceed the safe decibel rating for significant periods of time. In fact, those who serve on Navy ships can be surrounded by noise for 24 hours a day, with no relief for ears or brain (what researchers call audiological rest). Even with hearing protection, the noise generated by airplanes taking off and landing on aircraft carriers (with noise levels over 150 dBA), for example, can be a significant source of noise safety issues, including workplace safety, quality of life, and communicational effectiveness.

It is this final issue of communication on which Mr. Yankaskas has focused his research. As we have discussed before, hearing and understanding verbal commands and conversation can be critical to safety in any workplace situation, especially the laboratory. Extended exposure to such high, and continuous, levels of sound can damage essential auditory nerves and even alter brain circuits. Mr. Yankaskas and his team focus on four multidisciplinary areas: noise control, susceptibility, medical research, and hearing protection. His passion and commitment to this work, and to educating the public on the issue of noise safety, were additional factors in his receiving the Safe-in-Sound award last month.

Noise Safety Challenges in Your Lab Environment

Fortunately, we don’t all have to work around noisy jet fighter engines. However, all labs have some lab safety issues, including the buildup of noise in the work environment. For many, extended exposure to mass spec roughing pump noise can become a noise safety issue, especially in the area of clear and comprehensible communication.

This is why we have crafted the IonBench MS with its noise-masking vacuum pump enclosures. We guarantee a 15 dBA reduction in noise output with our dedicated lab furniture, which is more than a 75 percent reduction in noise levels. Our vibration reduction system also minimizes the noise from mass spec vibrations.

We congratulate Mr. Yankaskas for his work and his commitment to educating people within and beyond the Navy on the issues of noise-induced hearing loss. To learn more about how our IonBench MS can help support noise safety in your lab, contact Tim Hawkins today via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Celebrating Fifty Plus Years of Mass Spectrometry in Space

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. That momentous occasion was made possible by some of our finest technology—including mass spectrometry. For example, dating all the way back to the first Apollo missions, earlier generations of the mass spec were keeping an eye on cabin air quality. In this post, we recognize and celebrate the various roles played by mass spectrometry in more than fifty years of space exploration.

The Use of Mass Spectrometry in the Moon and Orbital Space Programs

Atmospheric analysis was the primary purpose for mass spectrometry in the first decades of the space program. Initially, it was used to monitor VOCs during early space flights. Once we actually landed on the moon, mass spectrometry was tapped again to analyze the moon’s atmosphere. Today, mass spectrometry is currently used to monitor air quality at the International Space Station.

Much of the revolutionary nature of mass spec’s use in space exploration had to do with transforming MS instruments to withstand the unique challenges of space. Both the analytical capabilities of mass spectrometry and the logistical needs of mass spec instruments themselves were challenged by operating in that most unforgiving environment. MS sensitivity, selectivity, and speed of processing all had to be addressed. The instruments themselves had to take up minimal space, weigh as little as possible, draw from a very limited power supply, and be able to withstand the significant gravitational forces of being hurled into space, as well as the radiation they encountered once they got there. Much of that successful miniaturization has contributed to the plethora of new mass spec uses today, some of which we’ve discussed previously.

Mass Spectrometry and Planetary Exploration

Mass spectrometry has also contributed much to our knowledge of Mars. The Viking landers and orbiters deployed mass specs that taught scientists most of what they knew about Mars until after the millennium, including revolutionary ideas about the possibility of water on the red planet. While those early lander missions were supposed to last just 90 days, Viking 1 continually sent information back for six years. (Can you imagine any lab’s mass specs being asked to perform reliably and remotely for years without servicing?)

Such explorations aren’t limited to Mars. The Huygens Probe, launched from Cassini, sampled the atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan a decade ago, finding complex organic compounds. The Pioneer Venus probe carried five mass specs, which had to be specially modified to handle the volume of incoming data as the probe rushed through the atmosphere, and also needed to discount background contamination by metal ions that would disperse off the instrument’s surface. Today, the Curiosity Rover is analyzing Mars as you read this, using a quadrupole mass spec to sample various rock layers as it moves across the surface of the planet.

Mass Spec’s Future, on Earth and in Space

As noted above, scientific advancements that enabled the MS to take flight have revolutionized the mass spectrometer here on earth. Newer technologies have included the direct sampling ion trap and ion-mobility spectrometry. Direct sampling allows for real-time air monitoring, which is essential for the health of humans in space. Ion-mobility spectrometry is used today to detect drugs and explosives, and the speed of its separations and ease of use are proving to be game-changers here on earth.

Meanwhile, another mass spectrometer has arrived where no human—or human instrument—has gone before: the sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently orbiting the sun, collecting data that is expected to revolutionize scientific understanding of our home star. The first batch of data has arrived back here on earth and scientists are eager to interpret what this mass spec has discovered.

While IonBench dedicated lab furniture has yet to go into space, we are proud of all the work our benches have done to support MS work here on earth. To learn how IonBenches can support your mass spectrometry projects, reach out to Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Saluting Mass Spectrometry Award Winners at Upcoming Pittcon

Pittcon (the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy) happens in Philadelphia March 17–21. QuietBench will be there with information on our IonBenches, as will a number of luminaries in the fields of chromatography and mass Spectrometry. This is your chance to talk in person about our dedicated lab furniture.

The LCGC Lifetime Achievement in Chromatography Award

This year’s Pittcon will honor Milos Novotny of Indiana University with a lifetime achievement award. A major contributor to advancements in the field of chromatography, Novotny developed a world-class research program that trains the next generation of leaders. We’ve designed our moveable IonBench LC to support their efforts—and yours—with adjustable height ranges and the capacity to handle up to 500 kg of heavy weight, such as tandem processes, on a single piece of dedicated lab furniture.

The Pittcon Heritage Award

Dedicated lab furniture is not the only critical element that supports leaders such as Novotny. Without reliable, quality consumables, lab processes would grind to a halt and comparative analyses would falter. Over fifty years ago, Walter Supina and Nicholas Pelick founded Supelco to provide researchers with columns, standards, reagents, and accessories to keep their work moving forward. Pittcon will honor these pioneers who anticipated that, as chromatography grew, solving emerging analytical challenges required specific and dedicated tools.

Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award

This award will be presented to a retiring professor of chemistry at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan. Yukihiro (Yuki) Ozaki focused four decades of applying various types of spectroscopy. We believe that dedicated lab furniture should support his work—and others like it—and we strive to make our lab benches last for as long as his tenure.

LCGC Emerging Leader in Chromatography Award

Finally, we know that fields such as chromatography always evolve, and this year, Pittcon leaders will present their Emerging Leader award to Ken Broeckhoven of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Broeckhoven’s research optimizes separation performance, and his efforts have resulted in over sixty published papers and forty talks. His focus on the fundamentals of chromatography reminds us of the need for a strong foundation—such as the one you will find in every IonBench.

If you’re coming to Pittcon, look for us. We’ll be exhibiting, along with our sister company MS Noise, at booth 2158. Discover why our IonBenches are so strong under pressure and so innovative in the constantly changing fields of mass spectrometry and chromatography. To set up an appointment or if you can’t make the conference, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Why Everyday Noises Impact Lab Safety

We frequently point out the risks of a noisy lab environment. But workplace noise is only part of the exposure we all get daily. You see, we all encounter a variety of noise sources every day.

The total amount of noise you experience outside the lab on a given day will impact the amount your body can endure inside the lab. Thus, lab safety must take into account the bigger picture.

OSHA Guidelines and Lab Safety Parameters

As we’ve discussed before, OSHA recommends an exposure to noise safety levels of no more than 85 dBA during an eight-hour period. However, the recommended maximum exposure level limit drops exponentially as the noise volume increases. This means that lab safety parameters for a noise exposure level of 110 dBA would be only for a duration of one minute and 29 seconds. Obviously, noise exposure at such high levels, while rare in labs, cannot be a sustainable feature of any workplace.

Mounting dBA Exposure with Everyday Noises

To give you a sense of the scope of the issue, let’s consider what a morning routine for a worker might be like. They are awakened by an alarm clock (65-80 dBA), grind their morning coffee beans (70-80 dBA) and boil water in a whistling teakettle (80), then shower and blow-dry their hair (60-95) and/or use an electric razor (50-80). This means, before they’ve even left the house, they’ve been exposed to multiple minutes of noise that is near or above the OSHA recommendation.

When your employees leave the house, it just gets worse. Heavy traffic is rated at 85 dBA, while the subway is rated between 90-115. Encountering a jackhammer in road construction will expose them to 130 and the siren of a passing ambulance will add another 120. By the time they reach work, their ears, brain and heart have already been exposed to significant amounts of noise.

Here are some additional common noise levels that can impact employees in your lab:

Home
•       TV audio – 70
•       Garbage disposal – 70-95
•       Flush toilet – 75-85
•       Doorbell – 80
•       Food processor – 80-90
•       Blender – 80-90
•       Garbage disposal – 80-95
•       Baby crying – 110
Work
•       Quiet office, library – 40
•       Large office or lab – 50
•       power lawn mower–65-95
•       Manual tools – 80
•       Handsaw – 85
•       Jet plane (at ramp) – 120
•       Chainsaw – 125
•       Air raid siren – 130
Other
•       Noisy restaurant – 85
•       Shouted conversation – 90
•       Motorcycle – 95-100
•       Symphony concert – 110
•       Car horn – 110
•       Rock concert 110-120
•       Walkman/MP3 Player – 112
•       Football game – 117

Preventing Noise Level Overload in Your Lab

Obviously, with so much noise around us at all times, it’s critical for lab safety and employee health to minimize noise in your lab. This is why we have integrated multiple noise-reducing factors into our IonBench MS. Our vacuum pump enclosures guarantee a noise-reduction level of 15 dBA. Our dedicated lab furniture is vibration-free and our cooling fans are isolated and quiet.

If you’re ready to focus on lab safety and cut down on cumulative noise exposure, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233 to learn more about our dedicated lab furniture.

2018 Lab Design of the Year Winner Includes Many Innovations

The annual international Laboratory of the Year Awards recognize “excellence in research laboratory design, planning and construction.” In this post, we salute the facility that was awarded 2018 Laboratory of the Year and discuss how some elements of its design philosophy integrate seamlessly with our mission to provide the best in dedicated lab furniture that fits into any lab design.

And the Winner Is: CJ Blossom Park

The 2018 award was given to South Korea’s CJ Blossom Park. The architects, CannonDesign, created a three-tower flower-petal shape that represents and houses the three formerly separate and still distinct science divisions within CJ Corporation. This R&D headquarters allows for cross-operational collaboration, centralized administration, and the inclusion of a number of stress-lowering features for employees that are designed to prevent burnout.

A Lab Design Philosophy of Science without Stress

Key to many elements within this lab design is a recognition that stress is a constant factor in modern life. One of CJ Corporation’s goals is to attract and retain the next generation of young scientists. Created in collaboration with CannonDesign, the resulting lab design incorporates not just innovative laboratories and workspaces but almost 50 different types of amenities that take up 10% of the total square footage of the building complex. These facilities include a library, fitness rooms and a spa, sleeping pods, coffee shops, and a café.

The facilities include a variety of elements designed to bring nature into the building. There is an indoor “living forest” that can be viewed from inside the laboratories and a multistory, calming water garden on the bottom floors. The landscaped grounds sit adjacent to a park that provides glimpses of trees and a grassy hillside from many portions of the facility.

Incorporating the Best Dedicated Lab Furniture, Features, and Flexibility

All of this is nice, but would not be of much value if the working lab features weren’t also well-designed. The facility uses a universal lab bench design and size, which we have previously noted is an efficient and flexible solution to frequently changing processes and procedures. Each piece of its dedicated lab furniture is serviced from an overhead boom that provides power, data, and lab gasses.

The three petals/towers are designed to maximize available natural light for the lab segments as a whole. CannonDesign used advanced barometric monitoring to track the sun’s movement around the facility, then created a lab design that maximizes use of natural daylight. It saved energy and cost by separating ambient lighting from more focused, powerful (and expensive) task lighting, which can be moved in conjunction with the dedicated lab furniture when layouts need to be reconfigured.

Lab design innovations can provide valuable efficiencies to any modern lab. This is why we take note of awards such as Laboratory of the Year. We applaud the winning lab’s innovations and look forward to supporting other labs by sharing ideas on how to utilize our dedicated lab furniture in their lab design plans. For more information, contact Tim Hawkins today via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Tales from the Lab: Investing in Lab Safety with Specially Designed Refrigerators and Freezers

In our ongoing quest to make labs safer, there is a culprit that is found in some labs that has no business being used for anything. We’re referring to a standard refrigerator.

A typical refrigerator, while great for storing snacks, lunch and soda, is not designed to withstand lab storage needs. There are numerous documented cases of lab safety accidents that have occurred when flammable materials with a flash point below 100°F are stored in a common refrigerator. Often, in these incidents, vapors escape, a spark ignites them, high pressure builds quickly and dramatically, and an explosion occurs, causing up to thousands of dollars in damage and the potential for human injury or even death.

Typical Lab Safety Refrigerator and Freezer Accidents

A few examples will suffice to make our point. In the first, tubes of petroleum ether were stored in a household freezer. The tubes were not well sealed and enough petroleum ether evaporated to surpass the low explosive limit of about 1.0%. When an internal component let off a spark, causing the freezer to detonate, damage to the lab and equipment was well over $250,000.

In the second example, a university research lab explosion was caused when vapors escaping a container of flammable liquid found an ignition source inside of a household refrigerator. The fridge latch failed, the door blew across the room, windows were broken, and the contents of the refrigerator were scattered across the room, presumably causing damage to several ongoing projects.

In each case, no humans were hurt because no one was in the room at the time of the lab safety accident. This was fortunate, but certainly cannot be guaranteed.

The Hidden Danger of Common Refrigerators and Freezers

Standard household-rated refrigerators and freezers are never acceptable storage options for flammable materials. This goes without saying, but simply labeling household appliances as unfit for flammable storage has also not proven to be sufficient either.

Refrigerators and freezers can operate for 20 to 30 years, often being moved from one lab and lab supervisor to another. Promises made by the purchaser not to use the item for flammable storage can be forgotten, or lab techs in a hurry can decide to store those materials in the closest appliance “for just one night”—with potentially costly consequences. It’s, therefore, much smarter to avoid standard refrigerator and freezer use for any purpose (even snacks and lunch) in a laboratory.

The Importance of Investing in Dedicated Refrigerators and Freezers

Fortunately for lab safety, there are flammable-materials-storage refrigerators and freezers designed specifically for labs. With these appliances, all potential ignition sources for flammable vapors are located outside the cooling portion of the unit. These units are prominently labeled as being safe for flammable storage. (There are also explosion-proof refrigerators and freezers that isolate ignition sources from both outside and inside the unit. They are designed for labs where flammable gases or vapors are present in the labs themselves for extended periods of time.)

The Importance of Investing in Dedicated Lab Furniture

Certainly, investing in lab safety is a high priority for everyone. Dedicated cold storage is only one way to insure it. Dedicated lab furniture like the IonBench MS, which safely supports and transports heavy equipment and isolates vacuum pump noise below acceptable levels is another. Our IonBench LC also safely raises and lowers instruments for safe and easy access. To learn more about the lab safety features of our dedicated lab furniture, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

More Mass Spectrometry Making a Difference

We periodically acknowledge advances and discoveries made with mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography. We know that often good work builds on previous foundations, which is why we provide a strong foundation for all mass specs with our dedicated lab furniture. In this post, we look at three innovations making a difference around the world.

Mass Spectrometry Aids in Determining Olive and Olive-Oil Safety

One ongoing issue with mass spectrometry is the harmful presence of lipids in samples that complicates the analysis of fatty foods. Researchers in Spain developed a novel analytical process that uses aminopropyl as a sorbent material and a Florisil cleanup in the elution step. These researchers used mass spectrometry twice—first GC-MS in SIM mode and then LC-MS-MS in positive ionization mode—to collect usable recoveries, which efficiently tested pesticide and herbicide levels in olives and olive oil. The development of this key process met newer, more stringent regulations regarding maximum contaminant levels set for olives and olive oil by the European Union and the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Quantifying Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Another methodology developed in the European Union determined and quantified nineteen polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to PAHs has been linked to multiple types of cancer; the EU prioritized fifteen of those nineteen PAHs for monitoring. A group of French researchers met the challenge and developed a process to determine PAHs in food and oil samples. The selective extraction of GC and tandem mass spectrometry, along with an isotope-dilution approach using 13C-labelled PAHs, provided greatly purified analytes. The methodology was quick and automated and provided high levels of sensitivity, selectivity, and interpretation.

Recording and Evaluating Mass Spectra in Their Native Environment

The ability to record mass spectra in ordinary samples in their native environment has been a holy grail for mass spectrometry. Researchers at Purdue University stepped toward this goal by developing ambient mass spectrometry. Using desorption electrospray ionization, they directed electrically charged droplets at the object of interest and then vacuumed up the released ions into the MS; rapid analysis took place on-site. Multiple uses for portable mass specs include explosives detection, natural-products discovery, and biological-tissue imaging.

Each of these examples demonstrate how researchers continue innovating applications of mass spectrometry that address real-world challenges. We celebrate these achievements and look forward to learning about more ways that mass spectrometry makes a difference.

Our IonBench dedicated lab furniture can be customized for each make and model of mass spec and HPLC so that researchers can focus on science and not on the inadequate support of their lab tables. To learn more about how our lab benches can be a firm foundation for your innovative work, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

What an Airline Can Teach You about Lab Design and Dedicated Lab Furniture

Sometimes a lesson learned in one industry can easily be applied to another. The recent passing of Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher brought much attention to his progressive thinking. We saw an older article about the airline that sparked some inspiring thought on our part, so we thought we’d share the idea.

It turns out that Southwest Airlines has a wise business philosophy that applies to lab design and the purchasing of dedicated lab furniture.

What Makes Southwest Airlines Special

So, what caught our attention in this article? We noticed that Southwest Airlines’ focus on a single type of airplane makes good business sense in a variety of ways.

By exclusively using Boeing 737s, Southwest only needs to train mechanics on inspecting and repairing, and pilots on flying, a single type of plane. They only need to order and keep a single set of spare parts on hand. They can swap out airplanes at any time, for any reason, without worrying that their crew in a certain city can’t handle the plane if something needs attention before it returns to home base.

How strong is their commitment to this business model? When Southwest purchased AirTran, they leased all AirTran’s other types and models of planes to other airlines, rather than expanding their own fleet. They then used those funds to keep their current business model thriving.

Why This Business Model Works

Think about it for a moment: if you only need to train users on a single type of machine, training takes less time and money. If one mechanic or pilot is out sick, another can easily step in, because they all have the same expertise. Mechanics are also more likely to notice problems because they’re used to seeing each part of each plane looking the same; if something is out of line, they’ll notice right away.

Southwest Airlines also saves big on that inventory of spare parts. Not only do they intentionally limit the types of parts they need to have on hand, they can also order in bulk and receive significant discounts as a result.

How Does This Apply to Lab Design and Dedicated Lab Furniture?

If you’re designing a new lab or renovating an existing facility, it’s best if everything can work well together too. If you purchase dedicated lab furniture from a number of manufacturers, they might not interface as cleanly. Different lab benches might have different heights or widths, hoses might not connect through the same part of the furniture, or the power supply might be located on different sides.

Consistency with design and operation also matters if you need a flexible lab design with lots of moving parts. With a single brand of dedicated lab furniture (and especially if it features industrial-strength caster wheels like IonBench), you can easily move people and processes around your lab without needing to instruct staff on how to use the different benches. Plus, if you buy an attractive line of benches (again, like IonBench), they just all look great in your lab.

Bulk purchasing can also work with dedicated lab furniture. If you’re outfitting a new lab design from scratch, ordering all your benches from one dedicated specialist can save you money in volume discounts, delivery, and time you would otherwise have spent negotiating with a variety of manufacturers.

So are you working up a new lab design? Is it time to upgrade your fleet of dedicated lab furniture? Reach out to Tim Hawkins today (at 1-888-669-1233 or via email) and he can help you see why choosing a single type of dedicated lab furniture is a sound investment.

Tales from the Lab: Lab Safety and Cleaning Your Dedicated Lab Furniture

Periodically, we post about lab accidents as part of our mission to promote lab safety and its connection to our line of dedicated lab furniture. Seldom, however, does a lab safety accident occur that dovetails with our previous posts in such a clear and compelling fashion as this one. In this case, a lab accident, which fortunately wasn’t disastrous, clearly illustrates the need to carefully and completely follow cleaning protocol.

What Happened?

This incident involved a researcher was preparing his lab for sterile work by wiping down his lab bench with a diluted mix of ethanol. We outline this process in this post about keeping your dedicated lab furniture sparkling clean. This researcher used the correct 70% ethanol mixture and a paper towel, as we outline in our instructions.

Unfortunately, he did not dispose of the paper towel properly when he was finished. Instead, he left it sitting on an adjacent desk. After letting the lab bench dry, he lit a Bunsen burner on the bench. The fumes from the paper towel were close enough that it caught fire when he lit the burner.

The researcher acted quickly, using a handy beaker and water to extinguish the flames. This, unfortunately, generated enough smoke to set off the fire alarm. He properly cleaned up the area and evacuated the lab, seeking out fire responders to let them know what had happened, and that the situation had been contained and resolved.

What Else This Lab Safety Accident Revealed

Naturally, there was an investigation of the incident and what could be learned from the mistakes that were made. The researcher used water, but smothering the flames is recommended. The researcher was wearing a plain white lab coat, not a flame-resistant lab coat. As a result, new lab safety procedures were put in place to require a flame-resistant coat when working with flammable materials and Bunsen burners. A fire safety drill was performed to remind all staff of appropriate protocol and procedures.

What Lessons Were Learned about Cleaning Dedicated Lab Furniture

Additional suggestions and precautions are revealed by this lab safety accident. If ethanol catches fire, it should be smothered with a dry cloth. Your dedicated lab furniture, as well as any other furniture in the vicinity, should be examined for flammable materials before lighting a Bunsen burner. After cleaning your lab bench, make certain all ethanol has evaporated before proceeding with any further tasks. Make certain all ethanol has evaporated from your gloves as well—or, better yet, properly dispose of the gloves and the paper towel used after you clean your lab bench. Only then should you proceed with handling any burners or flammable materials.

As we noted in our prior post, ethanol is both an effective and a cost-effective cleaner. However, it is only a good cleaner for your dedicated lab furniture when it is used properly. When you make lab safety is your primary objective, and focus clearly on the tasks at hand, you can maintain a safe work environment and avoid lab safety accidents like the one above.

We make lab safety our primary objective with many elements of our IonBench MS, including strong caster wheels for safe movement and accessibility, vacuum pump enclosures to reduce noise, and a rough pump overheat protection alarm. To learn more about the safety features of our IonBenches, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.