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.

Sound vs. Noise and When is Lab Safety Impacted?

Sounds are everywhere. Every environment on Earth has them. Some are natural, such as birds chirping or cicadas droning. Others are generated by the devices we humans have created. Both types of sounds, regardless of what causes them, can become an annoyance or even a danger depending on the circumstances.

That’s why sound—and particularly noise— represents a lab safety challenge and why we have carefully crafted our IonBench dedicated lab furniture to address noise safety concerns.

The Difference Between Sound and Noise

While you might not think of it in this manner, there is a simple way to distinguish between noise and sound: Noise is sound that you don’t wish to hear. To put it another way, when you have decided a sound is an annoyance, you should now classify it as noise.

Take, for example, jazz music being played in a lab. To some, it may be a beautiful sound. To others, who might need silence in order to focus on a demanding task or analysis, it might be classified as distracting noise. For still others, who might have relegated the sound of the music to background status, a sudden change in volume could result in startled surprise, perhaps resulting in a jerk of the hand or the head. In barely any time at all, that innocuous sound could have become noise that precipitates a lab safety incident.

How Noise Safety Definitions Vary

With so many subjective factors involved, it’s no surprise that definitions of what constitutes noise can vary. Individuals differ in their internal—often subconscious—understanding of what makes sound become noise. This can cause conflict in a lab. When one person’s sound is another person’s noise, noise safety discussions can become increasingly heated (potentially becoming noise safety hazards in and of themselves).

Consequently, it’s important to create a culture surrounding sound and noise that allows for individual differences. Attaching different definitions to elements of sound can help those discussions find common ground.

The 3 Physical Characteristics of Sound

There are three physical characteristics of sound that can be used to develop practical parameters for the discussion of noise safety:

Intensity: The magnitude of a sound, measured in decibels (dBA), delineates intensity.

Frequency: Sound frequency is more commonly referred to as tone or pitch and is measured in hertz. High-frequency sounds are often considered more annoying, while low-frequency sounds are perceived as being louder.

Temporality: Sounds vary in terms of fluctuation, continuity, and constancy or intermittence. A sound that varies in its temporal pattern is usually perceived as louder, because it has surprised the listener (as in the change of volume example noted earlier).

Addressing Lab Safety with Dedicated Lab Furniture

In many environments, various sounds can be used to drown out other sounds (such as when lab technicians use music to disguise the sound—experienced as noise—of mass spectrometry vacuum pumps or fume hoods). While this can be effective for some people, it creates potential lab safety issues when the total volume of noise increases beyond an acceptable or tolerable level for others.

Addressing such noise safety concerns is one of the reasons we created our IonBench MS, which comes with vacuum pump enclosures that guarantee a 15 dBA reduction in perceived noise. To learn more about this dedicated lab furniture and our commitment to noise safety in the lab, please contact Tim Hawkins at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 888-669-1233.

Lab Renovations: How to Minimize Disruptions and Increase Efficiency

Disruptions in the workplace are always costly, regardless of whether they’re planned for or not. When it’s time to begin lab renovations or relocation, you can pretty much guarantee lost time and efficiency, distracted staff, and increased frustrations.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of those disruptions. Knowing what to look out for—and planning accordingly—can be half the battle.

Involve the Right People

Successful lab renovations depend upon thorough communication. This means involving personnel from all levels of the organization. Senior managers provide broader perspective and an understanding of laboratory goals. Experienced scientists provide a detailed understanding of lab functionality and utilization needs. And middle management brings its unique perspective—plus a careful eye on the budgetary bottom line.

If all levels of personnel aren’t involved, or if they come and go over the course of a long project, important voices can be missed when critical decisions are made.

For example, does your new lab design need to support a siloed or collaborative work environment? Is there mass spectrometry equipment that needs to easily fit through multiple doorways and around corners? Questions like these, and many more, can affect the design and functionality of your remodeled lab and cause problems if they are not appropriately considered.

Document and Verify Existing Lab Structures and Dedicated Lab Furniture

Lab renovations can be tricky in that sometimes assumptions are made, which—absent independent verification—can result in costly mistakes down the road.

Say, for example, that the floor plan for an initial renovation project indicated that lab gas was being piped to each workstation. Designers toured the existing facility but didn’t move the lab furniture to confirm the piping, since all the furniture had been bolted to the floor to increase stability. When the tear-down begins, workers then discover gas canisters behind lab benches and learn from staff that the piping was never installed due to lack of funds.

Such a discovery could result in more complications, and possibly more expenses. What if the new lab layout didn’t allow space for gas canisters behind every workstation, or the new lab furniture had no accommodation for canisters? Certainly the cost to install a new piping system or add an external storage room would contribute to the cost of your lab renovations.

To avoid such problems, gather as much up-front documentation and information as possible. Surveys, 3-D laser scanning, and interviews with informed stakeholders, like on-site facility managers, can provide crucial details that might otherwise be missed.

Also, from a long-range perspective, investing in moveable dedicated lab furniture can be beneficial. The IonBench, for example, with its strong, lockable caster wheels, not only offers more flexibility for varying lab layouts but also makes it easy to move your mass spectrometers and other equipment when planning a new lab configuration.

Upgrade HVAC Systems

Lab renovations are usually precipitated by a change in scope or increase in demand. If the HVAC needs of the upgraded facility are not taken into account, however, efficiency can suffer—possibly on a catastrophic scale, in the case of a systems failure. HVAC upgrades need to address not just the power needs of additional equipment but also the heat mitigation of those instruments.

With change, however, also comes opportunity. Lab renovations can reveal possibilities for collaboration, such as the opportunity for two teams to share a single, infrequently used instrument, thus decreasing its heat generation by a factor of two. And when positioned on moveable lab furniture, that instrument could be rolled easily and safely from one lab to another.

Maintain Operations During Lab Renovations

Inevitably, construction work will cause disruption during a renovation. Careful planning and thorough communication, however, can ensure that renovations are minimally invasive and do not occur during critical phases of particular projects.

Asking questions is key. What would be the impact if water or gas was shut off during the workday? How can the noise and dust of demolition be minimized? What renovations will lead to off-gassing that might affect staff and instrumentation? Can some projects be moved to a secondary location during lab renovations?

Questions like these are helpful, and we have an expert who knows what to ask. Tim Hawkins has the experience to walk you through what needs to be done in advance, helping you customize dedicated lab furniture for your renovation while guiding you along the steps toward a finished lab. Contact him today at 1-888-669-1233 or tim.hawkins@farhawk.com.

Purchasing a Mass Spec Lab Bench? Start Here

Ordering a new mass spectrometer is a big investment in the future of your lab. Since mass spec technology is constantly evolving, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually find yourself ordering one—if not this year, then soon.

Therefore, we want to help you think proactively so that your new mass spec hits the lab ready to roll—and that includes having the right dedicated lab furniture ready to support it.

Timing Is Everything

We regularly get calls from lab managers telling us they need to order one of our lab benches for immediate delivery because their new mass spec will be arriving in just a week. Our response is usually that such a thing is possible, but it won’t be very efficient or cost-effective.

That’s because our dedicated lab furniture is crafted in France and then shipped to North America. We can deliver one of our standard lab benches in just a week, but that involves something which can be tough on the budget – priority overseas shipping by air.

To make your purchase as cost-effective as possible, we recommend thinking about your lab furniture needs once your mass spec budget is initially approved and before the order is placed.

Customizing Your New Dedicated Lab Furniture

Another reason to plan purchases of lab benches as early as possible is that the added time ensures you’re better able to have important customizations built into your lab furniture. For instance, some mass spectrometry researchers like to have a CPU attached to the side of their bench and a flat-screen monitor arm attached to the top. We can also install keyboard trays, drawers, and even dedicated solvent waste modules.

We also pay special attention to the noise reduction capabilities of our vacuum pump enclosures—this depends on the mass spec you will be installing. If you’re using two Varian/Agilent MS40+ or Leybold Sogevac SV65 pumps, for example, you need to order our NE78 enclosure. If you will have Edwards pumps, on the other hand, you’ll need to order our NE58 vacuum pump enclosure.

We can also install heat removal modules or virtually any custom modification—but we need eight weeks to make those modifications in France and then ship the lab benches for installation in your lab.

Measure Twice, Install Lab Benches Once

Another key component of an efficient MS installation is making sure that the MS, your new lab bench, will fit through every hallway, around every corner, through every doorway, and into their new home in your lab.

We suggest you walk the route with your facilities manager, from loading dock to the mass spec’s desired location. Carefully measure every tight corner and doorway (including your freight elevators, if your lab is on an upper floor) to make certain that both your dedicated lab furniture and your new mass spec can safely make the trip.

You may want to speak with your receiving dock associates to determine whether the IonBench may be unpacked on the dock, and the shipping materials disposed. Many facilities are not able to do this, and we can help with third party “white glove” services, if required.

It’s also important to measure distances within your lab. If you purchase an IonBench with caster wheels, intending to move it around, will you be able to do so in the tight confines of your lab? Are all electrical outlets located close enough to the mass spec’s new location, and are they rated for the task? Is there enough room, and/or venting outlets, around your various lab benches for vacuum pump heat to efficiently dissipate without causing any problems?

There’s a lot to consider when you’re investing in a new mass spec, and not all of those issues are financial. That’s why we suggest that your first step be to contact Tim Hawkins, our IonBench expert, at 1-888-669-1233. He can provide additional purchasing tips about lab benches and answer questions about your particular situation.

Mass Spectrometry Assists with Alzheimer’s Amyloid Analysis

As readers of our IonBench blog know, we like to highlight scientific advances that are aided by mass spectrometry. Since our dedicated lab furniture assists researchers to focus on their work instead of their machines, by muffling mass spec vacuum pumps and making it simple to move a MS around in a crowded lab, we feel a very miniscule right to celebrate too.

We also know that many of you, our readers, are working to make just these sorts of breakthroughs that improve lives and advance science. In this post, we want to celebrate a very significant development in Alzheimer’s research that was aided by mass spectrometry.

Alzheimer’s and Amyloid-β

Alzheimer’s disease or “senile dementia” is increasingly prevalent. Recent statistics indicate that someone in the world develops it every 3.2 seconds. As healthcare improves in low- to middle-income countries, people are living longer and more of them are developing this disease. Unfortunately, by the time patients show symptoms  much damage to the brain has already occurred.

Researchers know that one of the earliest indicators of Alzheimer’s is the buildup of amyloid-β protein in the brain. Up until now, there have been two proven ways to identify this buildup in living patients: either image the patient’s brain with a PET scan or extract spinal-cord fluid from the patient. The cost and health risks of these procedures and the rise in the number of patients are some significant reasons why researchers have been working to develop a cost-effective and non-invasive way to screen for the disease.

Engaging Mass Spectrometry in the Process

In January, 2018, researchers in Japan and Australia published the results of their work to create a reliable blood test designed to detect a buildup of those amyloid-β proteins. They began by using immunoprecipitation to isolate amyloid-β. Next, they used mass spectrometry to differentiate amyloid proteins. When the process was complete, they compared their results with those obtained using PET scans. The blood test results were 90 percent successful in predicting the presence of amyloid-β levels in the brain when compared with the PET scanning.

Hope for the Future

Naturally, there is more work to be done before this blood test is ready for implementation in doctor’s offices around the globe. However, optimism abounds. Perhaps in five or six years, people will be regularly screened for Alzheimer’s through a routine blood test thanks to mass spectrometry.

What Advancements Are You Making?

Has your lab made a breakthrough using mass spectrometry? Send us a link to your big advancement so we can highlight it in a future post on mass spec successes. And if you need stronger, safer lab furniture so you can focus on your research, contact us today at 888-669-1233. We’ve got just what you need

How Even Moderate Noise Can Impact Lab Safety

Most researchers know that labs can be noisy. Between the sounds of the various instruments in the lab, other machinery, multiple conversations, HVAC systems, and other sounds, it can be difficult to hear yourself think, much less the soft “pop” that precedes a sudden lab safety issue or accident. But that’s not all. It turns out that even moderate noise levels can compromise lab safety, according to an Australian researcher.

Why Does Moderate Noise Matter?

Most work spaces tend to focus on the lab safety hazards that arise when noise is technically loud enough to cause physical damage to our ears. Certainly there are specific decibel measurements that, if exceeded in a lab environment, will have a physical impact on one’s hearing.

As part of last year’s Hearing Awareness Week, however, Catherine McMahon, head of audiology at Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub, announced “Moderate [noise] levels which may not be damaging to hearing can increase stress, decrease motivation and therefore reduce workplace productivity.”

What Is Moderate Noise?

In terms of lab safety, what constitutes moderate noise can be subjective, which makes it more difficult for employers to address. Moreover, the trend toward open, collaborative workplaces, including modern offices and many labs, means that conversations and other everyday sounds from adjacent workstations are more prevalent than ever—and increasingly being recognized as potential contributors to noise safety problems. But each situation is different.

“Noise is a subjective parameter; therefore we need to assess how an individual reacts to sound and determine its effects on distractibility, stress and productivity,” said Professor McMahon. “Speech from an adjacent cubicle can be considered annoying if it is distracting others from working, which is not simply a matter of the level of an individual’s voice.”

When Annoyance Becomes a Lab Safety Concern

We may think that annoyance is simply something we must accept when working with others. However, when researchers are exposed to annoying noise on a daily basis, stress symptoms can develop. As we’ve discussed before, such stress can lead to sleep loss, cardiovascular disease and a host of related symptoms.

Unfortunately, commonly used remedies will not work in a lab situation. In an office setting, earplugs or music are often recommended to block out annoying noise, but in a lab, those solutions just aren’t as practical. For example, you need to be able to hear certain sounds or colleagues’ warnings in the event a problem arises. If you block out all noise, you will block out the sounds you most need to hear in case of an emergency or accident.

Addressing Noise Safety at the Source

Addressing noise safety concerns is a primary reason for the development of our IonBench MS. With its specially designed enclosures, we have reduced vacuum pump noise by a guaranteed 15 dBA—a 75 percent reduction. This allows researchers to work collaboratively, right next to the bench, without needing to raise their voices in a way that would annoy colleagues at other workstations. In this way, our dedicated lab furniture becomes a key component of an effective lab safety protocol.

To learn more about IonBench and our commitment to a low-stress and low-annoyance work environment, contact us today.

Mass Spec Lab Safety: Electrical Hazards

Electricity represents both a necessity and a danger in every lab. In this second part of our “back to basics” mass spec safety series, we review more of the various types of lab safety issues one can encounter when operating mass spec technology.

In part one, we covered mechanical hazards. This time around, we will discuss the electrical hazards associated with mass spectrometry.

Internal Voltage Hazards

When functioning properly, some areas of mass spectrometers can expose operators to lethal voltage levels. High voltages can remain within a mass spec even when it is powered off, and capacitors can remain charged even though the instrument has been disconnected from all power sources.

As your MS literature undoubtedly says, do not use this instrument “in a manner not prescribed.” If your mass spec is not operating properly, do not take it apart to investigate it yourself. Call in either the professionals who manufactured your MS or a qualified repair technician.

Lab Safety Interlocks and Shields

Because of the danger of such high voltages, mass spectrometers have protective covers or shields to prevent lab techs from accessing the ion source probes. Do not power up or operate your MS unless those protective shields have been properly installed. Interlocks have also been integrated into your mass spec as a lab safety feature to prevent electrical shock. Do not override those interlocks.

When it’s time for routine maintenance, disconnect the ion source from the mass spec. Removing the ion-source housing will disable the high-voltage connection. Beware, however: As mentioned earlier, MS capacitors can remain charged even when your mass spec is disconnected from its power source.

Grounding Hazards

The mass spectrometer was developed long before grounded electrical outlets were required (and hopefully none of your mass specs are that old), but it would never be wise to operate your modern MS today without a correctly installed protective earth conductor.

Always have your electrical outlets checked by a qualified electrician before installing a mass spectrometer and make certain that the protective earth system maintains its integrity. (In fact, it’s an excellent idea to have all outlets in your lab checked at the time of installation, as you may need to rearrange your lab at some point in the future and plug your MS into a different outlet.) Operating an ungrounded mass spec effectively turns the entire instrument into a lab safety hazard.

Electrical Circuit Protection and Hazards

Your mass spec has been designed for operation with a specific electrical mains supply. If you operate the instrument with an improper mains or insufficient circuit protection, multiple lab safety issues will arise: You could damage the electrical wiring system. You could cause an electrical fire—possibly within the walls of your lab, where it would be extremely difficult to suppress. And you could damage your expensive mass spectrometer.

Before installing or operating any mass spectrometer, make certain that the branch circuit protection satisfies the requirements of your MS system. Also confirm that your mass spec voltage matches the mains supply coming into your lab.

Mass Spec Safety Starts with You

Electricity is a powerful resource—and with any power comes real danger. As we’ve said throughout this series, complacency is itself a lab safety hazard. Do not take electricity for granted. Periodically return to the basics and remind yourself of electricity’s potential hazards in a lab setting.

For help in grounding your mass spectrometer on the most stable platform possible, learn more about our IonBench MS, or contact us at 1-888-669-1233 with any questions you may have about mass spec safety or our dedicated lab furniture.