While every lab is different, labs in general have a number of common elements that factor into safety. Every laboratory design must incorporate assessments of the procedures expected to take place, the lab safety of the researchers and technicians conducting those procedures, and the types and volumes of hazardous materials they will be using.
But you don’t just need to consider lab technicians’ safety as they’re working with hazardous materials—you also need to plan in the lab design stage for how they’ll safely store those materials when they’re not working with them.
Secure Shelving Requirements
Some storage requirements are fairly straightforward. When storing any chemicals or other hazardous materials on open shelving, it’s important to purchase dedicated lab furniture shelving that includes edge guards.
These edge guards should measure between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch in height and should run around all four sides of the shelf. Whether the shelf units are out in the open for easy access or tucked away in a well-ventilated storage closet, the edge guards should prevent any containers from spilling onto other hazardous materials or nearby equipment or personnel.
Corralling Corrosive and Flammable Materials with Dedicated Lab Furniture
When it comes to hazardous liquids, specialized storage cabinets are required, and you must integrate space for them into your lab design. The National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories have approved certain types of dedicated lab furniture for both flammable and corrosive liquids. Specially designed storage cabinets must be resistant to fire and corrosion, and acids must be stored separately from bases.
Cylinders holding compressed gas must be securely attached to a stable structure, using non-combustible metal chains or similar materials. You should avoid anything that could burn in a fire, such as cloth or leather straps. This is why it’s critical to understand exactly what types of procedures will take place in research labs and incorporate sufficient cabinets and supportive storage spaces and anchors into each new lab design.
Implementing Signage in Your Lab Design
Along with using appropriate dedicated lab furniture for safe storage, each shelf unit or cabinet will need to be labeled with the correct signage. All cabinets that will hold flammable liquids must have a sign saying FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS. Cabinets or shelving that will hold acids must have an ACIDS sign. Cabinets containing alkaline liquids must be labeled BASES or ALKALIS. Finally, all strong oxidizers must be identified with a sign saying OXIDIZERS.
There is more to these signage requirements than a simple organizational strategy. Separating hazardous materials lessens the likelihood of accidental, and potentially dangerous, chemical reactions. The signs also provide tired lab assistants with an additional visual reminder not to store hazardous materials in the wrong place.
Increase the Safety of Your Lab
Naturally, we are strong advocates for using the right types of dedicated lab furniture in every laboratory design. Whether you’re planning space for hazardous materials cabinets or mobile mass spectrometry lab benches, using specially designed and dedicated lab furniture will always contribute to increased lab safety. To learn more about the advantages of our space-saving, movable mass spectrometry or HPLC benches, contact us today.