Tag Archives: lab safety

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lab Noise and Lab Safety: There’s an App for That

This blog frequently talks about the importance of managing lab noise. We’ve covered decibels and health risks associated with lab-safety accidents because too much lab noise can mask warnings and cause miscommunication at critical moments. But how do you know if your lab is too noisy?

What Is Your Experience with Lab Noise?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when wondering if noise is a problem in your lab:

  • When you leave the lab, do you sense humming or ringing in your ears?
  • Do you have to shout to be heard by a colleague who’s at the next closest workstation?
  • Do you experience temporary hearing loss when you leave the lab at the end of the day?

If you responded yes to any of these questions, then lab noise in your workplace may be a potential problem.

OSHA and NIOSH Workplace Noise Limits and Lab Safety

For all U.S. workers, OSHA has set standards and regulations for noise in the workplace. Exposure to noise should be kept below an equivalence level of 85 dBA for an entire eight-hour shift. For every sound level increase of 5 dBA over 90 dBA, the legal time limit is cut in half, which means you should only have to endure four hours in a 95-dBA work environment or two hours in a 100-dBA work environment.

Other organizations set stricter limits. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends less than fifteen minutes of exposure at the 85-dBA level per day and an exponential decrease in exposure time for every 3 dBA as opposed to 5 dBA.

If you are experiencing any of the lab-noise issues described above, you can take this to your supervisor and expect action. Ringing in the ears is unlikely to be taken as seriously as an objective measurement, but apps for that are now available.

Three Apps that Can Measure Lab Noise

While you might not have sophisticated instruments that measure noise in your lab, almost everyone has a smartphone these days. Here are three apps that measure lab-noise levels and provide a basic decibel reading, including statistics such as average-, low-, and peak-volume levels:

One thing to note is that standard smartphone microphones are not designed for precision measurements. If a basic reading concerns you, you may wish to invest in a sound-level meter to gather readings that will convince your supervisor of the seriousness of the situation. On the other hand, you can report your initial findings on your smartphone or tablet and suggest that your supervisor take it from there.

Dedicated Lab Furniture Reduces Lab Noise

One of the most efficient methods for reducing lab noise is installing dedicated lab furniture. Our IonBench MS sequesters MS roughing pumps and guarantees a 15-dBA reduction in noise levels. To learn more about IonBench, contact our dedicated lab-furniture expert. Tim Hawkins can be reached by email or at 1-888-669-1233.