Workspace design is incredibly important. This is doubly true when the work being done is highly technical, potentially hazardous, or requires specialized equipment. The space made available to a worker or a technician on lab benches must be clean, easily navigated and close enough to storage and fixtures, so it is not necessary to strain to reach tools and supplies.
It may not seem like a big deal that an often-used piece of equipment is just a bit too high to reach easily. However, it becomes an issue when that equipment has to be retrieved and replaced several times a day. Not only does this increase the potential for damage to the equipment, but it also puts the safety of the workers in jeopardy and makes the workbench itself less efficient.
This is why laboratory workspace and workbench design is so important. Each workspace should fit into an overall lab design, and should adequately accommodate its function.
The tasks being conducted at a workbench will necessitate several decisions, not the least of which is the material that makes up the surface and fixtures. A metal table, for example, is likely not the best option if the workbench is meant to be installed in an electronics lab. At the same time, a wooden surface is probably not the best choice for a chemistry lab.
Knowing what the lab benches are designed to do and understanding the various tasks likeliest to be performed at them will also inform their size and orientation. Standing desks, for example, are not only becoming more popular but are also more suitable for certain kinds of laboratory work. On the other hand, if the workbench is designed for seated users, the arrangement of storage spaces will almost always have to be adjusted.
Do the tasks being performed at a certain kind of workbench requires a series of related steps? If so, the basic assembly line workflow might be appropriate, and any workbench being used for that workflow should be constructed to make the best use of the process. A bench that has a large square surface is probably not as well suited for a process-type workflow as a bench with a more rectangular surface that is easily reached from both of the longer sides.
These kinds of questions are sometimes left unanswered until it is far too late. At the very least, choosing the wrong arrangement of workbenches, making them the wrong shape or the wrong height will have a continuous effect on the work going on in that lab.
The fastest way to reduce work quality and speed is to create clutter. Insufficient storage means there will be things in the lab without a place, and that neatly works against the entire concept of making the right decision on workbenches in the first place. Laboratories are valuable facilities, and the tools inside them are even more valuable. It should be a lab designer’s top priority to make sure workbenches have adequate and easily reached storage.