Tag Archives: lab safety

Ventilation Safety Recommendations for Your Lab Design

FanGood laboratory design is not just about efficient workstation layouts, component placements, and emergency exits. Dedicated lab furniture, storage units, and other components must be carefully and mindfully placed to avoid tripping hazards and other lab safety issues.

But that’s not all. Ventilation is a key lab safety factor that must be considered also in any lab design. Every lab must include the ability to safely remove contaminated air and circulate sufficiently cooled or heated air to prevent unwanted spontaneous reactions or overheated equipment.

Here are some considerations for incorporating safety cabinets, fume hoods, and canopy hoods into your new lab design or renovation project.

Biological Safety Cabinets

A biological containment system is only effective if airflow around the cabinet remains within spec during use. Thus, every biological safety cabinet must be installed and tested appropriately to ascertain sufficient airflow. OSHA states that biological safety cabinets must be certified each year—but also every time they are moved.

This means that if your renovated lab design entails rearranging equipment, you will need to be certain there is sufficient airflow in the new location, and also have the cabinet re-tested after the new setup is complete.

Unlike mass spectrometers, which can easily be moved around the lab on dedicated lab furniture with casters, your biological safety cabinet needs to remain where it is installed. Otherwise, it will need to be recertified every time a move occurs.

Chemical Fume Hoods

Fume hoods provide the primary control for protecting lab techs who work with flammable or toxic chemicals. This means that they hold a primary place in any lab safety process. As with biological safety cabinets, OSHA requires that chemical fume hoods provide sufficient airflow throughout any lab procedure.

When creating any new lab design, care must be taken to ensure that nothing will block the airflow through the baffles or baffle exhaust slots. Sufficient safe storage for all chemicals must also be located nearby, so that technicians are not tempted to store chemicals within the fume hood, which is also against OSHA regulations. Including a backup power generator for each fume hood is also recommended to prevent accidental loss of airflow during any power failure.

Canopy Hoods

It is important for any lab designer to remember the difference between fume hoods and canopy hoods. Canopy hoods are only intended to vent heat in general, or for specific processes, such as autoclaves.

While industrial-level ventilation may not be necessary, canopy hoods must still vent air outside the lab workspace, and preferably outside the building completely. Canopy hoods are also not meant to be used for personal workstations, so an adequate lab design must allow for this.

Lab Safety Knowhow for You

To learn more about the ventilation and electrical needs of today’s working labs, or to find out how dedicated lab furniture—including our customizable lab benches for mass spectrometry—can increase the safety and efficiency of your lab, reach out to talk with us today.

 

Incorporating Storage Safety Recommendations into Your Lab Design

StorageWhile 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.

 

 

Lab Safety: Does Your Lab need to Install Noise Warning Signs

Hazardous Materials SignNoise is never good in a laboratory. We’ve discussed on numerous occasions the damage noise can do to hearing and the lab safety concerns brought about by not being able to hear what co-workers are saying. Fortunately, with dedicated lab furniture like the IonBench MS keeping vacuum pump noise at bay, and other noise reducing techniques, lab noise isn’t often above danger levels. But every rule has an exception. When workplace noise exceeds certain levels, warning signs are required to alert workers and visitors of the risks they face and remind the use of safety equipment. Here’s a primer on when signs are needed and what they should say.

When Are Lab Noise Warning Signs Necessary?

Again, severe noise levels aren’t usually encountered in the research lab, and it would be wasteful, and potentially detrimental to your safety efforts, if you were to post signs when you didn’t need them. However, labs are constantly changing, and it’s important to monitor the level of additional noise that’s brought into your lab by each new piece of dedicated lab furniture or equipment—for instance, a fume hood.

OSHA requires posting signs when workers in your lab could potentially encounter sustained noise at the level of 85 dBA or more. As we’ve noted in previous posts, “dBA” stands for a weighted-average decibel level; you can learn more about decibels here.

What Type of Lab Safety Sign Do You Need?

Once you’ve determined your lab or other workplace environment is loud enough to merit the installation of signs, there are two types of signs to consider. A “Caution” sign is required by OSHA for noise levels of 85-100 dBA, while a “Danger” sign is required for noise levels of over 100 dBA. Furthermore, noise exposure above 103 dBA requires a sign that demands double hearing protection.

But you can’t just write “CAUTION” on a large piece of paper, tape it to the wall above the offending machine, and call it good. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specify particular colors and symbols that are needed for each lab safety sign, according to ANSI standard Z535.1.

The Caution sign must use a yellow background. The word CAUTION can either be in black letters or be yellow against an inverted black outline, while the explanatory words below are in black on a yellow or white background. Also, the sign must list the reason for caution; in this case, “hearing protection required.”

A Danger sign, on the other hand, must say DANGER using red, white, and black, and must state the reason for the danger, like: “High noise area, ear protection must be worn.”

Where Must the Sign Be Placed?

These signs should not be posted above the machines making the noise. The reasoning here is that by the time a worker sees a sign, their ears are already being damaged.

Instead, all signs must be posted outside the entrance of the lab or workplace where the noise exposure could occur. They can be on the door, or on the periphery of the door, but they should be visible at the entrance, before the door is opened and the noise exposure begins.

Reducing Noise with Dedicated Lab Furniture

No question, lab safety is a complex, dynamic undertaking—especially when dealing with noise—but protecting the ears of all lab workers is worth it. That’s why we suggest you invest in our dedicated lab furniture, which reduces MS vacuum pump decibels by 75%. Request a quote today to learn more.

 

 

Mass Spectrometry and LC Troubleshooting for Lab Safety

QuietBench_TroubleShooting So how can you tell if something is wrong with your mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography systems? We talk a lot about lab safety in general, but in this post we’re focusing on troubleshooting—because it’s critical to catch performance issues before they reach the level of a lab safety concern. Additionally, you don’t want to waste precious time and samples performing tests when your MS/LC systems aren’t working properly. For these reasons, it’s key to regularly evaluate your equipment and know what to do when something appears “off.”

Begin with the Lab Safety Basics

A good way to begin any inspection is with a visual overview of the entire system. You want to make sure everything looks normal. Does anything look out of place? Are there any leaks, or misaligned connections between the MS and the LC?

Of course, making these types of evaluations is a lot easier to do if you can get up close and personal with your machines, which is why we created our adjustable HPLC-UHPLC cart. It can easily be raised or lowered, allowing you to bring all parts of your system to eye level.

Break Down the Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry System

Next, you want to “break down the system” into its component parts—specifically mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography. For the LC, you want to watch the standard mixture separation, checking pressure traces and flow measurement, and running an injection check. You can isolate problems to one of a half-dozen areas:

  • Columns
  • Autosampler
  • Valves
  • Tubing
  • Injector
  • Pump

With mass spectrometry, the critical issue is infusion. You want to watch the voltages, detector signal and vacuum gauges. (Since we trust you are using our dedicated MS lab bench, with its vacuum pump enclosure that provides 75% noise reduction, you probably won’t notice any noise changes in the vacuum pumps.) Here, you can isolate the problem to:

  • Ionization or source
  • Calibration
  • Detector
  • Vacuum
  • Mass analyzer

Utilize CIV

CIV is short for “compare with installation values.” The engineers who install your instruments are some of your best lab safety allies because they know more about your equipment than anyone else. In addition to keeping track of installation values, make friends with your installers, ask them questions, and see if they will give you a copy of their own troubleshooting manual or other documents that aren’t normally given out to customers.

Specific things to pay attention to at the time of installation (and to record for future reference) include:

  • Vacuum settings (for all regions, when possible)
  • Voltage readbacks (copy screen shots of acceptable values)
  • Mixes as tuned for use (including sensitivity, resolution, stability, mass calibration, S/N)
  • Listing of best practices for auto-tune or calibration
  • Chromatographic performance (pressure range, peak width, RT stability)
  • Clear descriptions of error log messages
  • PM schedule recommendations for your specific use patterns
  • Recommendations for finding spare parts
  • Restrictions on solvent usage, pH values, etc.

Employ System Suitability Protocols

One helpful way to prevent lab safety problems and ascertain test parameters for mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography applications is to develop a system suitability protocol. This will help you monitor any changes that occur in your hardware or software. Analysis of a known sample provides data which can easily be compared with prior readings using a logbook that tracks prior performance, problems, and solutions.

Specific metrics for LC performance include retention time, peak shape, and chromatographic resolution; for mass spectrometers, you want to check sensitivity/response, mass accuracy, and precision. Always use the same method for LC and MS, and monitor metrics variability over a number of injections. Poor system suitability data should be kept to assist in troubleshooting future performance issues.

Enhance Your Lab’s Efficiency

We believe that optimal performance depends upon keeping instruments well calibrated and constantly monitored. We also believe that dedicated lab furniture will help you extend the life of your instruments and keep them performing at their best. For more information on our lab benches, contact us today.

 

More Mass Spectrometry Lab Safety Concerns

QuietBench_Warning1When it comes to lab safety, we often talk about noise and its elimination, but there are other potential risks from using mass spectrometers and liquid and gas chromatographs in a lab. Everything from carrier gas volatility to magnetic fields and vibration can create a lab safety concern.

While some of these tips may be almost second nature, it’s always good to review them from time to time to make sure they aren’t being overlooked or shortened, leaving the potential for a developing, dangerous, lab safety situation.

Preventive Lab Safety Measures

There are several safety precautions you can take to prevent any volatility in your mass spectrometry lab. These include:

  • Turn off the gas source any time you turn off, vent your MS or if there is a power failure.
  • Check frequently for leaks, using certified leak-checking equipment.
  • Remove ignition sources from your lab whenever possible (including open flames, sources of static electricity, or devices that spark).
  • Never allow gases to vent from high pressure directly into the lab itself.

Additional Mass Spectrometry Safety Tips

In addition to volatility, there are other lab safety concerns to be aware of with mass specs and other spectrometers. Make sure you:

  • Avoid touching cold hoses during cryogenic refilling to avoid nasty burns.
  • if your MS came with a safety kit, make sure to install it before operating.
  • Vacate the lab immediately if gases vent loudly and cause a dense, white fog. If this occurs during a magnet quench on an NMR, or sudden boil-off of cryogens, it can cause asphyxiation.
  • Never look at lasers.
  • Whenever possible, do not operate the MS in service mode.
  • If there’s a power failure, turn off all equipment and gas sources. Let the MS cool down for at least an hour and open the MS vacuum manifold to atmosphere (remove side plates or manifold windows) before restarting.

Lab safety is probably the most important element of your job, which is why we spend so much time on it. To learn more about protecting yourself from lab accidents, and how our dedicated lab furniture can help, contact us today.

 

Lab Safety: Not All Lab Accidents End in Tragedy

QuietBench 1Lab safety is serious, but sometimes it does have a lighter side. Regular readers of our blog probably know we sometimes drive home our lab safety message with a lighter tone. Such is the case with this post. Here are some lab accidents that resulted in serendipitous discoveries and “successful” new products instead of fires and fatalities.

Scientific Breakthroughs from Lab Safety Blunders

Modern lab safety rules are often designed to prevent cross-contamination of any kind, but that might not always be for the best. It’s well known that Alexander Fleming is the discoverer of penicillin. Less well known is the fact that he also discovered a beneficial enzyme after accidentally sneezing on a bacterial sample. Fortunately, he didn’t immediately discard it (which would have certainly met modern lab safety protocol) and instead observed that his mucus was keeping certain bacterial microbes at bay.

Meanwhile, one of the most successful drug discoveries in the modern era was also accidental. Men in the Welsh mining town of Merthyr Tydfil participated in a drug trial in 1992. Test results showed that the drug being investigated was not helping with their angina. Fortunately, however, at least a few of the voluble test subjects were happy to talk about a recent rise in their private lives. If not, the research world might never have discovered an effective use for sildenafil citrate, aka Viagra.

Not all such discoveries have taken place in clean, modern laboratories. In fact, one of the earliest “accidents” in lab history involved Chinese alchemists in the ninth century. They were attempting to mix up an elixir of immortality and instead created an elixir of death: gunpowder.

Another “fortunate” lab accident with decidedly mixed results came from the research lab of DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett. A “defective” canister of tetrafluoroethylene gas was found to also have a friction-free white powder, which would soon adhere itself to frying pans around the world. Unfortunately, research in later years uncovered a real-world safety predicament with this discovery. Further tests revealed that the powder, now known as Teflon, contains a “likely carcinogen” found in fully 95 percent of American bloodstreams.

Fictional Advantageous Lab Accidents

As any science fiction fan knows, fortunate lab safety accidents are not limited to the real world. Comic book heroes have attained various superpowers as the result of scientific mishaps. The Flash was the first, with his incredible speed being the side effect of inhaling certain vapors in a lab. The Hulk is another—physicist Bruce Banner’s initial transformation was triggered by being caught in the blast of a gamma bomb that he himself had invented.

But not all fictional characters belonged in the lab that transformed them. Plastic Man was a thief whose presence in the Crawford Chemical Works was entirely nefarious in nature—he and his colleagues were burgling the place. Perhaps the lab itself retaliated by transforming him with that falling drum of unknown acid.

Preventing Lab Accidents with Dedicated Benches for Mass Spectrometry

Of course, there have been a lot more lab discoveries made because of careful adherence to lab safety rather than divergence from it. This is why we have created our dedicated benches for mass spectrometry. They are specifically designed to keep you and your colleagues safe in the lab—and the mass spectrometer safe from damage or destruction. If you aren’t using dedicated lab furniture yet, contact us today and find out how it can keep your lab, your researchers, your MS, and your data safe from harm.

 

Addressing Lab Safety at the Noise Source

Quietbench_Lab_Noise_Sources_1It’s true that noise can be one of the less-obvious lab safety issues. Flashy chemical reactions, fires, and sloppy mistakes may make great press, but it’s the slow-and-steady issues that are more often the culprits when it comes to lost time—and thus productivity—in the lab workplace.

We’ve explained in detail how the decibel system works, and the elements that make up a dBA rating. We’ve talked about OSHA’s rules and regulations with regard to noise in the workplace. In this post, we’ll focus on some specific sources of lab noise, and the cures that can help reduce those noises, thus keeping everyone in your lab happier, healthier and safely at work where they belong.

External and Internal Noises

Of course, some noises in the lab environment are beyond your control. Ambient noise from the surrounding area can have a definite impact on the overall noise level in your lab. This is certainly true if your building is situated in an industrial area, but it could also be true if you were to set up your lab out in the countryside, where tractors and trains might be the problem, instead of car horns and industrial machines.

In addition to external noise sources, there are likely to be noises inherent in the lab that will contribute to the overall noise level of the working environment. Ringing telephones—no matter what the ringtone—will contribute to the environment, as will any piped-in music or radios, along with the necessary conversations taking place amongst the various working groups within the lab.

Lab Equipment as a Lab Safety Problem

But the largest culprit when it comes to noise tends to be the equipment you use in your lab. Refrigerators and freezers, fume hoods and compressors, stirring motors and centrifuges all contribute to the level of noise in a lab. MS vacuum pumps and nitrogen gas generators also contribute to the overall noise, until it seems practically impossible to carry on a reasonable conversation.

Additionally, all of this equipment is not created equally. While some equipment, such as fume hoods, run constantly, others work periodically—refrigerators, for example—or intermittently, such as LC pneumatic sample injectors. This means that the amount of noise in any lab is constantly changing, and therefore more difficult to address.

Controlling Lab Noise with Dedicated Mass Spectrometry Benches

One of the best ways to control lab noise is to start with the design of the lab itself. By working with the lab architect, you can insure it will meet OSHA standards and other safety protocols. However, if you’re dealing with an existing lab, you are limited in what you can do to prevent external noise from getting in, or to use sound-deadening materials in the lab’s construction.

But you can address the specific lab equipment you use, and find ways to keep the noise of that equipment below a critical hearing-loss threshold. One specific way to do this is with dedicated mass spectrometry benches. Our IonBench MS encloses the loudest part of a mass spec—the vacuum pumps—which makes the entire machine much quieter.

Another avenue to lab safety is through innovative technology. For example, new oil-less rotary scroll in-house nitrogen gas generators compress ambient air with much less noise, as well as preventing pollution of your LC/MS system with oil. Using a rotary scroll system actually decreases the noise level from an average of 55-60 dBA to as low as 49 dBA. Since the decibel scale is weighted, this is a large decrease in noise—and therefore a significant increase in lab safety.

So if your lab is noisy, consider what dedicated lab furniture and new technologies can do to increase lab safety in your workplace. To learn more about the safety features built into our IonBench MS, contact us today or complete our online form to request a quote.

Truly Tragic Lab Safety Accidents

tragic-lab-safety-accidentsIn the past, we’ve shared some lighthearted stories about lab safety and the accidents that occurred from a lack of it. But lab safety is serious, and lab accidents sometimes don’t have happy endings. While we recognize that light-hearted stories are great for sharing in the break room, it’s the serious ones that tend to bring lab safety to the forefront of your mind in those moments when it really matters.

Following are some of the most serious lab accidents in history. These are cautionary tales. When it comes to lab safety, you just can’t be too careful, which is why our dedicated lab benches come with so many standard safety features.

A Crushing Blow

A graduate student lost three fingers and suffered serious burns because of his lack of understanding about the materials with which he was working. One key component in lab safety is paying attention, especially when working with materials that are unfamiliar. The group of graduate students in question here were definitely unfamiliar. Their professor told them not to make more than 100 mg of nickel hydrazine perchlorate derivatives. Unfortunately, they either did not pay attention, or chose to ignore the professor’s instructions, and assembled 10 grams of the substance.

They also did not understand the explosive nature of their creation and chose to experiment by crushing it with mortar and pestle. The friction and pressure of this activity triggered an explosion, which cost the student those fingers—and a hard lesson for all involved.

Fatal Secondary Effects

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that kills you. In Australia, a technician accidentally burned himself in a hydrofluoric acid spill, but those burns were not the cause of his demise. In fact, he only suffered burns over about 9% of his body—but he still died two weeks later. It was the fluoride that the researcher absorbed through his burned skin. It caused such a depletion of calcium in his body that he died from multiple organ failure.

Of course, medicine has, over time, improved to prevent just these types of tragedies. In this case, calcium gluconate gel should have been applied to his burns. This gel would have literally absorbed the fluoride ions so that they were never taken in by his body in the first place. Instead, the researcher was injected with doses of calcium, and of calcium gluconate to offset the loss, and one of his burned legs was amputated. Unfortunately, the damage had been done, and he did not survive. The moral of this story is to keep up with lab safety research and know the latest and greatest treatments for each type of lab accident in which you or your colleagues could conceivably be involved.

Keeping Deadly Substances Safely within Your Lab

Usually with lab safety accidents, it’s not the lab equipment that’s the problem; it’s the human. The well-publicized 1979 anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk, Russia, which killed at least 64 people, was initially blamed by the Soviet government on tainted meat. However, years later, it was revealed that a military research facility had been the source of the outbreak—and the cause had been simple negligence. You see, someone forgot to change an exhaust filter in a timely fashion. That oversight resulted in the deaths of scores of people—and it could have been thousands more, if the prevailing winds had been blowing in a different direction!

Lab Safety Takes Many Forms

As these stories reveal, lab safety requires attention, education and timeliness, among other important qualities. There is never a good time to let down your guard in the lab, or do anything short of your best. This is why we have created the best possible dedicated lab benches for use with your mass spectrometers, HPLCs and other research instruments. To learn more about how our benches can contribute to safety in your lab, contact us today.

Ergonomics: A Sometimes Overlooked Element in Lab Safety

lab-safety-ergonomicsWhen presented with the idea, most of us tend to think about lab safety issues that are unique to a lab environment, such as toxic chemicals and loud vacuum pumps. However, working in a lab also brings with it some of the same issues every worker who sits at a desk or in front of computer in any environment faces. Issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and shoulder pain, and lower back issues.

In this post’s pursuit of improving lab safety, we’ll focus on the less obvious dangers of laboratory work; the ergonomic concepts of position, posture and balance, which are key to preventing the development of musculoskeletal disorders in the lab (or anywhere).

Position

One of the ergonomic issues for lab workers is that some lab workstations are primarily designed for the equipment, not the worker. Lab safety issues arise for workers because they have to interact with these machines in positions that the body cannot easily hold for long periods of time. For example, the equipment on your bench may not be at a height that allows for work either sitting or standing, leaving a need to reach awkwardly to operate the apparatus.

To see what we mean, here is an image of a recommended computer work station from OSHA that demonstrates comfortable, safe working positions. Of course, getting your lab bench to multi-task can be a challenge, and this is why our dedicated lab furniture comes with options for attaching a flat screen monitor arm and retractable keyboard shelf—so that you can access your computer components in ways that work for you. We also carry dedicated, adjustable chairs that allow you to work at your lab bench from a height and position that ergonomically correct.

Posture

Of course, ergonomics is about more than getting the right height. It’s about fitting the workspace to the person who works there, rather than the other way around. As that ideal computer workspace illustrates, you need to work using a posture that you can sustain for a significant period of time. For example, your upper arms should remain comfortably at your sides, and your wrists should not be flexed up or down, or twisted to one side or another, as you work. Therefore, you need a keyboard tray that’s wide enough to also hold your mouse, and it should be adjustable to allow your arms and wrists to remain in a neutral position.

Your back and neck also need to be straight, rather than bent or twisted to the side. If you share a lab bench with a large piece of machinery, however, you might find yourself constantly turning your head to one side to see the computer monitor. Working in a chair that easily swivels can help you to maintain that posture of “looking straight ahead” as you work.

Balance

Another key lab safety component in the ergonomics puzzle is balance. This isn’t about maintaining your balance as you reach over your head to refill your HPLC reservoir—although that is a valid lab safety concern, and the reason we created the adjustable HPLC bench. This balance issue is about the strain and energy it takes for your head to work when it’s not properly balanced on your spine. Your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball. Now imagine holding a bowling ball, as you’re about to release it into the lane, but don’t let go…wait…wait…are your wrist and arm hurting yet? How about your lower back?

This is what happens with your neck and back muscles when your head is not properly balanced on your spine. If you lean or hunch forward in order to see your monitor, or tilt your head back—or to the side—to get your bifocals in line with the computer screen, you’re putting a lot of strain on the muscles in your neck and back. Over time, this will result in musculoskeletal disorders—which can lead to decreased productivity and even lost time in the workplace.

Ergonomics, Lab Safety, and Dedicated Lab Furniture

As you can tell from just these few examples, ergonomic considerations are definitely a lab safety issue. This is why we put so much thought into our lab benches. Allowing for proper placements of computer keyboards, adjustable stools and the ability to raise and lower HPLC equipment without stress are just a few of our ergonomic solutions. You can learn more about these issues through various online sources, including available online training modules. To learn more about integrating well-designed dedicated lab furniture into your ergonomics plan, contact us today.

Is Workplace Noise Really a Lab Safety Risk?

workplace-noise-lab-safety-riskThe world is getting louder. Whether it’s mega-concerts or manufacturing, personal music devices or honking horns in traffic jams, noise surrounds us each day, whether at work or at play. It’s so common, it may seem unimportant. In fact, the more we become accustomed to the noises around us, the more we tune them out.

In the laboratory and other workplaces, this becomes a serious safety issue. If you get used to ignoring the sounds around you, what are the chances you’ll also, inadvertently, learn to tune out important sounds that could compromise your safety?

This is one way that noise becomes an important lab safety issue. Workplace noise isn’t just an issue if it’s louder than the warning sounds or conversations you need to hear. It’s also an issue if it prevents your brain from registering the noises you need to hear.

Workplace Noise Stats

The CDC has been collecting data on workplace and lab safety for years. Their data shows that over four million people must function every day in workplace environments that include excessive noise. Ten million citizens in the US suffer from noise-related hearing loss and every year, 22 million workers experience potentially damaging noise in the workplace. That’s a lot of people who are at risk.

The stats for actual hearing damage are also daunting. In 2007, there were 23,000 cases where workplace noise caused hearing impairment in workers. Fourteen percent of occupational illnesses that year were related to hearing loss. These statistics don’t even factor in the recreational noise exposure from concerts and mp3 players!

Correlating Cause and Effect

Of course, this overlap between noise exposures on and off the job is part of what makes it difficult to accurately track noise-related workplace incidents and accidents. However, while it’s difficult to draw absolute cause-and-effect relationships, a recent Canadian study did look a large amount of work-related accident cases to find any connections.

The researcher reviewed the records of fifty thousand plus male workers over a five-year period, in data from the Quebec National Institute of Public Health and the Quebec Workers’ Compensation Board. They discovered correlations between workplace and lab safety issues related to both high noise and hearing loss, some bad enough to require hospitalization of the worker.

The researchers also concluded that 12% of workplace accidents could be attributed to a combination of excessive noise exposure and hearing loss. While this might not seem like a lot, in 2014 there were 1,157,410 days lost from work due to accidents on the job in the US; 12% of that is almost 139,000 missed days of productivity because of noise-related workplace incidents.

So do we have your attention? The US is also doing similar research under the collaborative National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) which was established in 1996. They have made a top priority of studying the diminished ability of workers in noisy workplace environments to communicate with each other and monitor sounds in the workplace.

Reducing Risks with Workplace Health and Lab Safety Options

There are two basic approaches to take in reducing the risk of workplace incidents and accidents related to noise. The first is to address noise within the workplace; the second is to assist workers who have already experienced significant hearing loss.

The first is certainly where we have been putting our efforts. Our contribution to lab safety comes in the form of our dedicated lab furniture, which takes some of the noisiest machines in the lab—MS roughing pumps—and safely isolates them within specifically designed enclosures that decrease their noise level by 75%. Using oil- and fire-resistant foam, we dampen the noise by 15 dBA, making it easier for lab workers to communicate with each other and hear critical noises of experiments that might be about to go rogue. As a result, every lab with an MS housed in one of our IonBench lab benches is a safer place to work.

To learn more about the IonBench MS, contact us today or fill out this form to request a quote and further information.