Reflecting on a Forty-Year Career and Looking to the Future of Mass Spectrometry

This is Tim Hawkins. As you may have heard through the grapevine, or read in my earlier post, I’m retiring in a few short weeks. I’ve been reflecting on my 40-year career of representing dedicated lab furniture for mass spectrometry—and I’ve been thinking about the future of the industry—so I decided to scribble down some of my thoughts.

Remembering Epic Mass Spectrometry Milestones

Over my past 40 years in the field, I’ve been fortunate to witness some of the epic milestones in the development of mass spectrometry. Early mass spectrometers were huge, bulky machines that had to live in basements because they were so heavy and so sensitive to the foot traffic that would vibrate lab floors. Connecting mass spectrometry with gas chromatographs and liquid chromatographs popularized mass specs and literally brought them up into the daylight.

I was heavily involved as a product manager at Varian back when ion trap technology was first becoming popular. Initially, ion trap generated spectra, which were “not classical”, in other words a little bit different than they are today. As a result, everybody said the process didn’t really work. Over time, all sorts of new detection techniques were developed, including time of flight, so that now the idea of “classical mass spectrometry” is considered something of a joke.

I connected with Chip Cody, one of the inventors who came up with the sampling technique called DART—Direct Analysis in Real Time. It was one of the first commercially available techniques to actually measure the surface of the product to determine what chemical compounds were on it. For example, if you were doing forensic work at a murder scene and there’s an empty whiskey bottle beside the victim, you can wave the whiskey bottle in front of the DART and it would present whatever chemicals were on the surface. Pretty amazing stuff.

Supporting the Software Side of Mass Spectrometry

In addition to dedicated lab furniture, with the mentorship of David Sparkman, now with The University of the Pacific, I have been involved in the software side of mass spectrometry.  I began selling the NIST Mass Spectral Library in the early 2000s. Obviously, it’s much easier to identify compounds by comparing your spectrum to a database. NIST has been the most preferred database in the industry because every spectrum is reviewed and confirmed by a mass spectrometry professional, with each release. I have watched the popularity of this database and its number of compounds sky rocket over the last 15 years. It’s gone from being only for GCMS, then LCMS and accurate mass spec compounds. It’s kept pace and is holding its position in the industry for compound identification.

Looking Toward the Future of Mass Spectrometry

There’s no question that going smaller, faster, and cheaper is a trend which happens in any industry. The challenge that I’ve seen in most recent papers and presentations is focused on data. Mass specs literally pick up terabytes of data, and the analysis of that data is becoming more and more challenging. I don’t know if it’s going to be with supercomputers or artificial intelligence, but I think that progress in working with data is going to explode. I also see further work with sample preparation, such as the DART technique I mentioned above.

In terms of the future of dedicated lab furniture, one of my goals as a distributor has been to get the word out and increase business to the point that customers can go directly to the source. This means that, with my retirement, you will be able to go directly to the manufacturer to get quality dedicated lab furniture for your newest generations of mass specs.

It’s been a great ride, and I’m looking forward to retirement. My plot of land in the country is calling me.

My parting token of appreciation to the Mass Spec community is to offer a 10% discount and free shipping on any product or software purchased on the following sites between now and August 31, 2019:

www.quietbench.com (Pricing quotes provided until July 31st, 2019)

www.quietvacuumpump.com (Pricing quotes provided until July 31st, 2019)

www.mass-spec-software.com

www.nistmassspeclibrary.com

www.massmountaineer.com

www.essentialoilcomponentsbygcms.com

www.massspeccalculator.com

www.safefumehood.com

After 40 Years Supporting Mass Spectrometry, Tim Hawkins is Retiring

Hello, loyal readers and purchasers of IonBench products. This is Tim Hawkins. After 40 years representing some of the finest products in the laboratory equipment industry, I will be retiring on August 31, 2019. In this post, I will share how I got into the dedicated lab furniture business, and how mass spectrometry has evolved over the past 40 years.

How I Got My Start in Mass Spectrometry

One long-ago summer, I was cutting grass for a gentleman who was looking to hire a salesperson for his business in Western Canada. He said, “You have a degree, right?” and I responded, “Yes, sir—in Biology.” He said, “That’s close enough to chemistry. Do you know anything about chromatography and spectroscopy?”

I had been out west and really enjoyed my time there, so I went home and opened the Encyclopedia Americana (yes, in book form!). I looked up spectroscopy and chromatography and briefly educated myself as best I could. I went for my interview and the people I spoke with told me, “Okay. You can speak well and you look good enough. We’re having a trade show in Toronto. Why don’t you come down and check it out?”

That was the beginning of a long and storied career.

I’ve Seen a Lot of Change in 40 Years

Mass spectrometry has changed tremendously in 40 years. Back in the late ‘70s, everything was analog. There were no computers, no digital electronics. With the digital revolution came the automation revolution. Seeing a chemist (usually a man; there were very few women then), standing at an instrument with all sorts of switches and dials and gauges—that was the reality in my early days.

Mass spectrometry labs were dark chambers, usually in the basement because instruments were extremely heavy and because the vibrations from people walking by on any upper floor would negatively impact the operation of the mass spec.

Mass Spectrometry: A Technique Finding Applications

In the beginning, mass spec was a technique looking for an application. Forty years ago, nobody thought of using mass spectrometry for environmental analysis or forensic analysis. It was basically a tool for confirming structures, and for trying to figure out the composition of a chemical compound. Over time, computers and the Internet have significantly contributed to the performance of mass specs. They became smaller, faster, and cheaper—they’ve even been launched into space.

There have been other interesting applications. If you’ve flown recently, you know that sometimes you go through screening at the airport, and there’s an ion mobility spectrometer. The job of that mass spec is to make sure you haven’t recently handled explosives. The operator will wipe down your bag, put the swab in the slot, and it generates a spectrum, thus comparing the sample to the database of spectra of known explosives. The operator may not be a chemist, but he or she can quickly determine whether you’ve been in contact with something nefarious.

Supporting Lab Safety for 40 Years

Over my career, I’ve supported a lot of different types of labs. In my first job in Western Canada, the big market was the biochemical and petrochemical industries. So, I was calling on universities, natural gas plants, and oil refineries. I remember one lab that was working to figure out a way to safely and totally destroy nerve gases so they wouldn’t leak into the environment. That was scary.

I worked with biotech labs. There were these huge stainless-steel fermentation tanks full of fluid, generating drugs for breast-cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and epilepsy. It looked like a brewery to me, but they were doing important work.

I was blown away working with environmental labs. For example, the Los Angeles County Sanitation District had to measure thousands of chemicals and compounds that wind up in sewage, waste water, storm water, and ground water. They were very aggressively trying to measure as much as they could to make sure the environment was clean.

All in all, I’ve had a great career. I’m thrilled to have served so many labs in various ways. As a “thank you” to the mass spec community, I’m offering a 10% discount and free shipping on any product or software purchased on the following sites between now and August 31, 2019:

www.quietbench.com (Pricing quotes provided until July 31st, 2019)

www.quietvacuumpump.com (Pricing quotes provided until July 31st, 2019)

www.mass-spec-software.com

www.nistmassspeclibrary.com

www.massmountaineer.com

www.essentialoilcomponentsbygcms.com

www.massspeccalculator.com

www.massspecreports.comwww.safefumehood.com

Secondhand Noise: The Latest in Noise Safety Research

Did you know that the number one complaint in calls to New York City’s 311 line (for non-emergency reports) regards noise? Downtown Manhattan’s noise levels can frequently reach 95 decibels, which is far above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended average exposure level of 70 decibels. Some scientists are now calling noise “the new secondhand smoke” because of its significant, but under-recognized, detrimental effects.

We focus on noise safety periodically because of the multiple adverse impacts that excess noise can have on people’s health and well-being. Excess noise is also an important lab safety issue. So, here is some of the latest information on noise’s impact in cities across the world and what some places are doing to address noise pollution.

Studying New York’s Noise Safety Problem

As noted above, Manhattan’s noise levels can reach 95 decibels (dBA). These readings have prompted New York University to begin a five-year study, The Sounds of New York City, that is monitoring noise in the city. Unfortunately, there are no studies available on changes in city noise levels over time – whether noise pollution is getting worse. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that it is. This includes the rising number of 311 complaints about volume and increases in noise-related lawsuits and hearing problems.

Regrettably, city noise is not an equal-opportunity offender. Poorer and racially segregated neighborhoods are exposed to higher levels of noise pollution. A 2017 study by the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley demonstrated an ambient noise difference of almost two decibels between neighborhoods having a median annual household income below $25,000 and neighborhoods with incomes above $100,000.

Noticing the Impact of Noise Pollution

As we’ve noted elsewhere, human bodies suffer multiple detrimental effects from noise safety issues. These include annoyance, stress, the risk of cardiovascular disease, and a decrease in cognitive performance. From a lab safety perspective, comprehension and the capacity for focused attention also suffer when the body is under stress from excess noise. Loss of hearing can also contribute to lab safety accidents when staff cannot hear instructions correctly, or miss problematic sounds altogether.

Noise can even follow us outside of work, on vacation for instance. As we’ve reported earlier, the US National Parks are barraged with various noises, specifically aircraft, road noise, and industrial noise pollution that mostly drifts in from outside the parks. Most commonly, this results from drilling for oil and natural gas. And while airplane noise has actually decreased over the past 35 years, due the development of quieter engines, this has been offset by an increase in the volume of flights.

Seeking Stricter Noise Level Recommendations

Standards in the U.S. lag noise protection in the European Union, which has better recognized the dangers of noise on its citizens. While OSHA recommends an average of no more than 85 dBA over an eight-hour work shift, and the EPA recommends no more than 70 dBA over a 24-hour period, the E.U. set a significantly lower standard of 40 dBA back in 2009.

Addressing the Noise Problem with Creative Solutions

Many regions and industries in the US are already seeking to address secondhand noise with new noise safety solutions. Most of road noise comes not from engines, but from tires interfacing with roads. In Texas, the direction of rain-draining grooves in concrete is being changed, so tires align with the grooves. Phoenix is experimenting with adding old, shredded tires to concrete, both dampening road noise and effectively recycling over 6,000 tires for every four-lane mile of road. Other cities are actively regulating and fining everything from tricked-out hot rods and motorcycles to helicopters and leaf blowers.

Naturally, we have also tackled noise safety with our dedicated lab furniture. To learn more about the noise safety features in our IonBench dedicated lab furniture, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Mass Spectrometry Discussion Groups: Supporting MS Professionals

Where did you first learn about mass spectrometry? Chances are high that you heard about the marvelous machines that perform mass spec in a science class and wanted to know more. Perhaps you connected with a group of student scientists or heard about a seminar on all the good work being accomplished with the mass spec (such as its fifty-year record of supporting space exploration, or its role in making a difference in areas such as food safety and medical diagnoses). Once you understood what mass spectrometry could support and achieve, you were hooked. You wanted to join the front lines and work in a lab with mass specs, HPLCs and associated instruments.

Local Area Discussion Groups for Mass Spectrometry

That “hook” is the reason behind a resource webpage and award program developed by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). ASMS tracks the existence and activity of various local area mass spectrometry discussion groups on a webpage on their site. They keep a list of active groups (and also inactive ones, in case there is interest in certain groups being reactivated) that are providing a forum for students and nascent mass spec professionals to learn more about and discuss the role of mass spectrometry in modern research and industry. This website makes it easier for members of the MS community to connect with a group in their area.

ASMS Discussion Group Speaker Travel Awards

In addition to keeping a list of active groups, ASMS has created an award program to support teaching professionals in providing seminars on mass spectrometry to these discussion groups. Any assistant professor who is a member of ASMS can apply for a Discussion Group Speaker Travel Award, which provides funding for these professors to travel to one of the active North American MS discussion groups (or a North American non-PhD granting college or university) to present a “vibrant seminar program” to discussion group members. (If you are interested in applying for the opportunity to present such a seminar, information on the application process may be found here.)

The objectives of the seminars funded by these awards include supporting local mass spectrometry discussion groups so they remain active, exposing student scientists at non-PhD-granting institutions to the research opportunities available with the mass spectrometer, and encouraging the professional development of young mass spec researchers.

Engaging Mass Spectrometry Professionals on Dedicated Lab Furniture

Part of the reason we know about these local area mass spectrometry discussion groups is that our own Tim Hawkins has presented to them. He has spoken with interested students and scientists about our IonBenches at the Greater Boston, North Jersey, and Delaware Valley discussion groups. Tim has volunteered his time to talk with these groups because of our commitment to supporting mass spectrometry with the very best in dedicated lab furniture. To learn more about what Tim presents to these groups, or to invite him to speak at your own gathering (or, of course, to ask him any questions about our dedicated lab furniture), please contact him via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

More Recent Trends in Mass Spectrometry

As long-term readers know, our dedicated lab furniture supports work around the world, and we love sharing the latest innovations of mass spectrometry.

3D Mass Spectrometry and Robotics

Mass specs prefer accessing and analyzing a smooth, planar surfaces, but because the real world isn’t flat, a team at Georgia Institute of Technology combined robotics with mass spectrometry. They created a system called robotic surface analysis MS (RoSA-MS) that attaches a custom-crafted laser scanner to a robotic arm.

The scanner creates a three-dimensional digital map of the sample’s surface. After the attached sampling probe gathers trace amounts of target material at precise locations, it is placed in an electrospray ionization mass spec for analysis. Applications for this technology outside of the lab are endless, including forensics where mass spec sampling of evidence is currently not feasible.

Transforming Diagnosis with Live Tissues

Mass spectrometry also aids with the sample-preparation process. Desorption, and the vacuum in which it occurs, can irreparably damage your live samples and tissues. A group of scholars at South Korea’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology developed a system that analyzes, with high-resolution, live samples at the micrometer level.

After innovating a handful of fronts, the DGIS team utilized a femtosecond laser to desorb biomolecules from biological samples and a plasma jet to ionize biomolecules and then analyzed mass-spectrometry samples. The team also distributed gold nanoparticles onto a biological sample through the endocytosis of live tissues, which transformed their light-absorption properties and required much lower laser power for biomolecule desorption. They addressed engineering factors by including an ion transmission device, a laser-focusing lens, a two-dimensional scanning stage, and a signal synchronization circuit.

This process enabled researchers to visualize, in high resolution, biological samples with metabolic activity. If this process can be refined to widen molecular-weight range, it can be used in drug-development testing and decrease the sacrifice of laboratory animals.

Analyzing Bacterial Resistance

According to the World Health Organization, bacterial resistance is the largest single threat to human health, but until 2018, mass spectrometry could not analyze the larger proteins connected to antibiotic resistance. Because clinicians need this information to respond effectively, French and Chinese scientists developed a process for mass spectrometry to play a crucial role in combatting mutating bacteria.

The team from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Shanghai’s Fudan University imprinted steel plates with light-absorbing titanium dioxide nanoparticles. They placed bacteria on the plates and then used UV rays to trigger an electrochemical reaction that augmented the laser’s effects and opened the bacterial membranes, which released a variety of biological molecules for further testing. Since those initial experiments, proteins are now the scientists’ focus because the proteins alter antibiotic effectiveness. Analyzing multiple other molecules, through the use of mass spectrometry, can help identify a bacterial fingerprint.

We are thrilled that mass spectrometry contributes to scientific exploration and effectiveness in important frontiers, and we are grateful that our IonBenches support this work. To learn more about how our dedicated lab furniture can support your innovations, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Lab Safety Pictograms and Their Meanings, Part 2

In our prior post, we began a series explaining the modern hazard communication pictograms set by OSHA. If they are clearly understood, lab safety pictograms can communicate caution in far less time than a paragraph full of words. In this post, we explain (in the language we know best) the detailed meaning behind the final four of these hazard communication pictograms.

Explosive Hazard

This exploding circle pictogram is fairly clear. You will find this symbol on containers in your lab that hold chemicals with explosive properties. This could mean they are unstable and capable of a reaction that can damage surrounding equipment, dedicated lab furniture, and nearby human beings. It could also mean they are self-reactive, with the potential to explode or cause a fire, even without their coming into contact with air (unlike flammable materials labeled with the flame symbol, which need air in order to combust). One last group of chemicals that could bear this pictogram are organic peroxides.

Oxidizing Agents

The meaning of this pictogram is less obvious, and one reason that we believe regular lab safety refresher trainings are a wise investment. The circle represents an oxidizing material, which readily emits oxygen or another oxidizing substance. The flames indicate that one possible result of this oxidization would be an explosion or the intensification of an existing fire. Even without air, such agents can intensify a fire because of their oxidizing properties. Oxidizing liquids and solids frequently found in labs include nitrates, chlorates, bromine, peroxides and perchloric acid. Any of these may also be toxic or corrosive and should be handled with caution.

Environmental Dangers

While this pictogram is not mandatory according to OSHA, its use is strongly suggested because of the effects these materials can have beyond your lab. While lab safety is our primary concern, the safety of our planet is critically important for the long-term viability of any lab. Substances labeled with this pictogram have the potential to harm people and the planet in significant ways, most often through aquatic contamination.

There are two types of environmental hazards: acute and chronic. Acute hazards will cause toxic effects from a single exposure or episode. Chronic hazards can cause toxicity after prolonged exposure in the environment over time. Such substances should be disposed of properly and never washed down a drain.

Skull and Crossbones

The skull and crossbones is a pictogram many see on a pirate’s flag in childhood. It dates back to the late Middle Ages, where it was frequently used as a memento mori, or reminder of death, on tombstones. Today, this lab safety label clearly indicates the acutely toxic nature of the substance. Acute toxicity means that a single exposure to the chemical in the container is enough to kill someone. Exposure could occur through inhalation, swallowing, or skin contact.

While not every modern pictogram is worth a thousand words, each of these OSHA hazard symbols indicates a clear lab safety hazard. Since the popular meaning of pictures can change or be lost over time (that classic radiation symbol, for example), it’s helpful to regularly be reminded of a lab safety pictograph’s meaning.

We also find it’s helpful to be reminded of the lab safety benefits of dedicated lab furniture. With roughing pump overheat protection built into our IonBench MS, there’s less likelihood of your mass spec accidentally starting a fire if you were to leave a flammable material on or near your IonBench. By suppressing the sound of those roughing pumps, we also make it easier for you to hear the telltale popping sound of something catching fire in your lab.

To learn more about how our lab benches are dedicated to your safety, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Lab Safety Pictograms and Their Meanings, Part 1

Written communication started with pictures. From Egyptian hieroglyphics to Native American petroglyphs, humans began communicating with simple visual images. While we’ve come a long way since then (as evidenced by how easily you can read this article), sometimes pictograms still give us information. This is especially true with lab safety, where lab techs want to quickly and clearly communicate information about hazardous conditions without the need for translation.

Clearing Up Any Confusion

While we naturally focus much of our lab safety concerns on the proper use of dedicated lab furniture, we know that a picture can often best convey the essence of a safety concern, but not always the underlying details. In this first of two posts, we explain (in the language we know best) the meaning behind some of the modern hazard communication standards set by OSHA.

Health Hazard

While stars are often bright and beautiful, the star on this pictogram is clearly damaging to the human it has invaded. This pictogram indicates that the materials within this labeled container are chemicals that can have a serious, sometimes long-lasting impact on the health of anyone who comes in contact with them. There are many types of harmful reactions that can occur in the human body through these hazards. They can cause cancer, respiratory issues, reproductive complications, dangerous mutations in human tissue, or adversely impact specific organs in the body.

Flame

Even our earliest ancestors would recognize this symbol. While flames are useful in everything from keeping us warm to supporting chemical reactions in your lab, flammable and combustible materials also present a lab safety hazard. Materials labeled with this symbol will easily ignite and burn in air and some of them will self-heat. Substances covered by this pictogram take many forms, including liquids and solids as well as gases and aerosols. All such materials must be kept far not only from open flames and heat, but also sparks and other potential ignition sources.

General Warning

This exclamation point is more nuanced, referring to general lab safety warnings that aren’t covered in more specific categories. This cautionary pictogram reminds lab workers that safety issues can arise anywhere in your lab. This sign might appear on a doorway, leading into a work area that contains particularly hazardous processes. It might also be found on a cabinet that hangs particularly low over the work surface of some dedicated lab furniture. There could be a multitude of meanings for this pictogram, so the basic message is to be cautious and pay attention. Check with someone if you aren’t certain about safety procedures, or the proper handling of specific equipment or substances.

Compressed Gas

The first high-pressure gas cylinders were crafted in the 1880s, so this is a pictogram that any modern lab technician would recognize. Three types of compressed gases are commonly used in labs: liquefied gases (which become liquid at room temperature when compressed), non-liquefied gases (which retain their gaseous state at room temperature when compressed), and dissolved gases (gaseous reservoir hydrocarbons which have been dissolved in liquid reservoir hydrocarbons). It is the pressure under which these gases are stored that makes them hazardous, creating the possibility for explosions, fire, or injury from a fast-moving emission from the cylinder.

Corrosion

Corrosive materials are substances that can eat away at everything from human skin to metal instruments and the work surfaces of your dedicated lab furniture. The keys to safe storage of corrosive substances include maintaining them at proper temperature and humidity. The keys to safe usage of these materials is the use of proper protection, including goggles, gloves, and other protective gear.

Pictograms are increasingly common in our multicultural world. It’s always helpful to be reminded of their meanings. It’s also always helpful to make a lab safety investment in dedicated lab furniture. Our IonBenches use a specially designed laminate that can withstand many potential lab accidents that could be caused by these corrosive or flammable materials we’ve just discussed.

To learn more about how our lab benches are dedicated to your safety, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233. Also stay tuned for the second in our series on lab safety pictograms in our next post.

Come Meet Us at the ASMS Conference!

The American Society of Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) is holding their annual conference in Atlanta in less than a month, and Tim Hawkins will be there. He loves to talk about our dedicated lab furniture, and conferences like ASMS are a great chance to see our IonBench MS and IonBench LC in person. If you’re going to be in Atlanta for ASMS June 2–6, stop by Booth 626. Tim will be happy to discuss with you our mass spectrometry aims and respond to your questions about our dedicated lab furniture.

The ASMS Conference

This year will be the 67th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics. Over 6,500 scientists and technicians will attend, over 3,000 papers (both posters and talks) will be presented, and almost 200 corporate members will host booths like ours in the Exhibit Hall. All of this provides an excellent opportunity to connect with other MS professionals, discuss the latest advances  in this always-expanding field, and stop by our booth to see our dedicated lab furniture in person.

Highlights of This Year’s Mass Spectrometry Conference

There are myriad opportunities at this MS conference to learn more about what’s happening with mass spectrometry around the world. The first evening begins with an opening Plenary Lecture by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University: “Transitioning the World Energy for All Purposes to Stable Electricity Powered by 100% Wind, Water, and Sunlight.” This will be followed by four days of oral sessions and three days of workshops. The conference closes with another Plenary Lecture by Lilly D’Angelo of Global Food & Beverage Technology Associates, on “the Chemistry of Food and Soft Drins.”

Some of the many oral session offerings that have caught our attention include these sessions: Portable and Transportable Mass Spectrometers (which would not need our dedicated lab furniture to operate safely), Cannabis Testing, Covalent Labeling, Plant “omics,” Emerging Contaminants, and even Art, Archaeology, and Paleontology. There will be sessions on new developments in everything from ionization and sampling to mass analyzers and MS in the hospital operating room.

The ASMS workshops look just as intriguing. You can learn how to teach mass spectrometry to undergraduates, get your results published through NIH and NSF, learn the latest trends in ion trap MS, and discover what’s unfolding with mass spectrometry in the developing world. There are also opportunities to network and for fellow women mass spectrometrists to celebrate with each other, and attendees can even catch the lighter side with “LC-MS Jeopardy – I’ll Take Increasing Throughput for $200.”

Hope You’ll Be There!

As you can see, there’s something for everyone at this year’s ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics. We hope you’re planning to attend and will take some time away from all those oral sessions and workshops to stop by the exhibit hall. If you want to set up an appointment with Tim Hawkins ahead of time, feel free to contact him today via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Setting Up Reliable Lab Safety Policies and Protocols, Part 2

Every lab needs a current collection of lab safety policies and protocols. Our prior post began a two-part series about general lab safety rules. In this post, we complete the series—with the caveat that, because every lab situation is unique, these lists should be amended to meet the specific needs of your lab and your work there. Please also note that these relatively brief posts should never be considered comprehensive guides to addressing every lab safety issue.

With these provisos, here is Part 2.

General Lab Safety Rules

  • Never operate lab equipment without first being trained, tested, and approved as a user by your supervisor or other authorized lab personnel.
  • Never chew gum, drink, or eat while working in the lab. Foreign substances should never be brought into the lab because cross-contamination can endanger your health and raise the possibility of contaminating your work.
  • Laboratory glassware should never be used to hold food or drink. (If you follow the prior rule about cross-contamination, this one will never become an issue.)
  • Each time you use lab glassware, carefully check for chips and cracks. Do not use any damaged glassware, and if you discover any issues, notify your lab supervisor. Regarding lab safety and the possibility of cross-contamination, damaged glassware should be properly disposed.
  • Never lift anything (solutions, apparatuses, glassware) above eye level. (Our answer for that doesn’t involve a step stool.)
  • Do not attempt to repair equipment problems yourself. If an instrument or piece of equipment does not operate properly or fails while during a procedure, immediately report the issue to a technician.
  • Do not use open flame in your lab unless you have explicit permission from a qualified supervisor.
  • Always work in properly ventilated areas and verify that all fume hoods or snorkels are on and operational.
  • Never touch, smell, or taste chemicals. If you are uncertain about something, do not use it.
  • Never pipette by mouth.
  • Always follow established protocols for disposing of lab waste, including all items used in cleaning up after any procedures or lab accidents.
  • Never leave an ongoing experiment unattended.
  • Never work alone in the lab. When you leave the lab (for a break or at the end of your shift), verify that you aren’t leaving someone else alone in the lab.
  • If you are the last person to leave the lab, turn off every ignition source and lock all cabinets and doors.

IonBench believes in operating safely in every lab and safety is also critical in the manufacturing of our dedicated lab furniture. Our IonBench LC safely rises and lowers with the touch of a button—you don’t have to lift anything above eye level to service your HPLC or UHPLC. To learn more about other safety features we have built into our IonBench MS and IonBench LC, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233.

Setting Up a Sound Set of Lab Safety Policies and Protocols, Part 1

Every lab should have an up-to-date set of lab safety policies and protocols. A sound and comprehensive set of rules and reminders can prevent most of the lab safety accidents about which we periodically post.

So, we’ve put together some idea starters to give lab managers and policymakers a few building blocks for their own policies. The list is extensive and will take two posts to cover, but it should not be considered as a complete guide to lab safety issues. Every lab is different and any list will need to be expanded upon and tailored to meet the particular needs of your lab.

With these caveats, here is part one of our list.

General Lab Safety Rules

  • Before you begin working in any lab, locate and read all fire alarm and safety signs. If you do not understand any signage or posted rules, get assistance or a translation as necessary.
  • Make sure you know where your lab’s exits and fire alarm pull stations are located.
  • Know your building’s evacuation procedures. If any renovation is underway in your building, learn whether it will impact those evacuation procedures, and then determine and practice an alternate route to safety.
  • Know where to find the phone numbers you need to use in case of an emergency. Store those numbers on your phone so they are always with you, regardless of where in the lab or building you might be.
  • Make sure you know where your lab’s safety equipment is stored and how to use it. This can include fire extinguishers, first aid kits, eye-wash stations, and safety showers.
  • Make certain that any lab areas containing hazardous materials and machinery (such as biohazards, carcinogens, radioisotopes, and lasers) are properly marked with appropriate warning signs.
  • Do not install or store dedicated lab furniture, instruments, or equipment within a three-foot radius of any and all building fire sprinkler heads.
  • If you notice any unsafe conditions in your lab, let your supervisor know immediately.
  • If there is a fire drill, be certain to turn off all electrical equipment and close all containers before departing the lab.
  • Follow all instructions in the event of an accident or emergency, and encourage others to do the same. (Your safety can be compromised by a colleague’s careless disregard for lab safety rules.)
  • If you have been injured or need assistance, shout out as loudly as you can, as soon as possible, to summon help.
  • If a chemical splashes into your eye(s) or onto your skin, immediately flush the affected areas with running water for at least 20 minutes (preferably using the eye-wash station or safety shower previously noted).
  • Report all injuries, accidents, and broken equipment or glass immediately. No incident is too small or unimportant to be reported when lab safety is at stake.

Here at IonBench, we promote safety in every way possible. We have designed our dedicated lab furniture to put safety first. To learn more about all the safety features of the IonBench MS and IonBench LC, contact Tim Hawkins via email or at 1-888-669-1233. Also stay tuned for Part two of our list of General Lab Safety Rules.