Putting Health and Safety First When Designing a Lab

Laboratory spaces are designed with the innovation and pragmatism of their scientists, professionals, and students in mind. Labs need to be outfitted with the latest technology and equipment for the important experiments and research that take place in them every day. It is also important to install only laboratory furniture in the space to ensure your employees and students can work efficiently and precisely.

However, safety is also of the utmost importance and certain steps need to be taken when designing your lab to ensure that everyone is kept safe from harm. Laboratories may contain dangerous chemicals, bacteria, and even equipment that can cause injury to those in the room. That is why the planning stages of design are so important.

Keep reading to learn how you can comply with the highest safety standards and design a lab that is both user-friendly and safe and secure.

Visit the Site Beforehand

It is important to visit the lab site before any construction or renovation work begins. This will give you a better idea of the space available and its potential as a functioning, safe environment. It will also help you envision the limitations of the space and how certain elements of the lab will have to fit together to encourage workability.

This will also influence the ability to choose between open and closed floor plans, which will have a large impact on the flow of the workspace and how your employees or students utilize it. Visiting the site beforehand will allow you to create your first blueprints and decide what type and how many laboratory tables to install.

It may also be helpful to consult your teams and stakeholders about their expectations for the new space. Both will have hands-on experience in different areas of the industry and will be able to provide useful insight and opinions.

Ensure Proper Ventilation

All labs should be outfitted with proper ventilation systems that guarantee the air changes 8-10 times every hour for spaces that are occupied.

Remember to keep heavy or hazardous equipment and materials away from the ventilation systems as this will have a negative impact on the room’s airflow. You will also want a fully controllable temperature system to keep your equipment functioning properly and your employees or students comfortable as they carry out their important work.

If your teams require fume hoods, which are used to control and capture hazardous contaminants in the air, there are many additional requirements that must be consulted. For a comprehensive list of fume hood requirements, look at the guidelines provided by Yale University or LabManager.com. These are both valuable resources that can guide you as you design your lab space.

When designing changes to your lab, it is important to keep a copy of the existing layout that shows important facilities such as ventilation systems, electrical wirings, and exit routes. This will inform your design team of the best way to renovate the space and incorporate old facilities or utilities into the new design.

Emergency Exits and Equipment 

Due to the sensitive nature of lab work, there is always a risk that an emergency may occur. In these situations, it is vital that those in the laboratory can access emergency exit routes that are clearly marked and easy to get to.

Laboratory workbenches and tables should not obstruct these exits. Instead, make sure that the lab layout allows flow and ease of movement.

The lab should also be well-stocked with adequate emergency equipment depending on the type of research and experiments carried out in the lab.

Common emergency equipment includes:

  • Eyewash and safety shower stations which are within 100ft or 10 seconds away from where the chemicals are used. It can be helpful to include drench hoses near or in the safety showers. Remember to install a non-slip surface in the shower space to keep it as safe as possible.
  • Fire extinguishers, shower, and eyewashes should all be labeled very clearly with instructions for use posted publicly.
  • It may also be helpful to install emergency lighting. This is especially true for labs that lack any or many windows.

By following guidelines closely and installing modern and reliable safety equipment, you may be able to avert disaster should any accidents occur in your lab.

Secure Storage Facilities

For laboratories that conduct chemical experiments, it is essential that there is a safe and secure chemical storage facility. The type of storage and its features will depend on what type of chemicals are being stored.

A few things are now considered standard throughout the industry:

  • Solid and durable cabinets must be expertly constructed.
  • Cabinets should be made from materials that are resistant to corrosives and come with trays and shelves that are similarly strong and resistant.
  • There should be secure storage for chemical, biological, or radioactive waste. These should be kept in a central location that is easily accessible and adequate space for these should be included in the planning process.
  • Shelving should feature durable and extra strong brackets that do not risk weakening over time. This will ensure that stored chemicals will not spill due to faulty shelving units.
  • Include in your lab design a special storage facility for any flammable liquids. This storage space will have to comply with the Uniform Fire Code and be regularly checked for safety purposes.

Choose a Layout that Works for You

When designing your lab space, one of the first things you must decide whether you want a closed or open plan layout.

Most modern labs are now opting to function in an open layout because it enables easier collaboration, prolonged sanitation, and quicker access to equipment without having to change rooms.

Closed workspaces will separate teams, or even individuals, from the rest of the workforce, which may improve focus at times, but can also hinder work and delay processes.

Whatever you decide for your lab, custom laboratory furniture can help you create a workspace as close to the ideal as possible. To discuss your needs for custom furniture, Contact the LabTech Supply team today!

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