Most people believe that cleaning is a simple matter of routine. That’s mostly true in casual environments like kitchens, garages, and offices, but when it comes to technical or scientific facilities like laboratories, cleaning and maintenance are far more important.
Contamination, for example, can ruin days or weeks of work, and accidents can ruin both equipment and experiments. Accidents can also put laboratory personnel in danger, especially considering the hazards that fill most laboratory storage.
You can’t clean what you can’t see. Knowing where to look and how to detect potential sources of contamination is crucial in a lab setting. For example, given a choice between searching for contaminants in the sink or on lab furniture or a countertop, where would an experienced technician start? If they’ve spent any real-time in a lab, they’re going to start with the sink, because that is where equipment, containers, chemicals, and tools gather. That’s where dirt will also accumulate.
Any damage to lab cabinets or fixtures must be repaired at once. If dangerous chemicals leak into the interior structure of a sink, fixture, or piece of furniture, it can have numerous ramifications beyond the potential damage to an expensive piece of equipment. Certain chemicals can cause fire hazards. Others can dissolve protective surfaces and even corrode metal fixtures, creating electrical shorts or chemical leaks.
Believe it or not, many structural and mechanical problems begin as cleaning and inspection issues. Damage to a fixture or countertop is guaranteed to become a cleaning issue in short order. Always remember you can’t clean what you can’t see.
One of the most successful organizations in the history of the human race is the British Royal Navy. They set the standards many navies are still trying to match. At the core of the Royal Navy’s secrets of success was a near-obsessive focus on putting cleanliness to a schedule. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it cut down on disease and food spoilage. It also improved morale among both officers and crew.
The same principles apply to any organization. Cleanliness has an organic effect on efficiency. Putting cleaning on a regular schedule guarantees the maximum benefit from preserving facilities, avoiding safety issues, and improving morale among everyone who uses the lab. The more frequent these activities become, the more noticeable they will become. After cleaning becomes a habit, it will have endless benefits.
No principle survives a lack of education. A cleaning policy can improve the lab facility if it is communicated to everyone involved and becomes part of the standard training regimen. The good news is all of the facts regarding education are easily communicated and justified, so it should be relatively easy to get everyone on board from the beginning.