Designing an all-new laboratory for safety

By: March 17th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here.

Considering safety requirements in laboratory design is much easier in new construction than when retrofitting existing facilities.

Communication is the key among the project team. The use of electronic communication between meetings can be an asset. Create a master e-mail list to be sure that everyone (e.g., hospital), then make sure there are lab representatives on the planning committee as soon as possible. Often the laboratory is overlooked or an afterthought and work can be done incorrectly that will have to be fixed later. The more buy-in staff have in planning and design, the easier the chances will be to implement, even if some staff members do not agree with the decisions. Who better than frontline staff to tell you what can and cannot work?

The laboratory team should select the equipment and casework that goes into the laboratory. Ofter the design team wants to make selections that meet the master plan but do not necessarily meet the needs of the department. In terms of safety, the safety committee should have input into those issues that affect the safe operation of the laboratory. Issues could include the placement of eyewashes, clean and dirty laundry areas, bench height, and task chair selection.

The time is takes to plan and execute a laboratory design can make the original plan obsolete before the move-in date. Therefore, management must use innovative thinking and take a long-term look at what the lab operation will be five or 10 years out. In the past, airflow separation was a justification for building walls around a department. The trend today is toward open-core laboratories. Such labs isolate and eliminate odors with ventilation pressure differentials, created with a technique called positive pressure ventilation. High-volume fans create a higher pressure inside a building than in the outside environment, and the laminar exhaust techniques of primary biohazard containment devises (biosafety cabinets) serve to protect laboratory personnel from exposure to infectious aerosols produced by routine procedures.


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