Everyone knows the levels of risk exposure in a lab environment. You deal with plenty of instruments, chemicals, and open flames. Anything can quickly translate into a safety hazard without proper care and precaution. Hence, it’s essential to understand what they are and how to prevent unwanted situations or accidents.
A quick look at chemical and physical risks in labs
The inside environment should be well-controlled and monitored to avoid any issues. One misstep can blow things up disproportionately, causing chemical burns, heat burns, cuts, eye injuries, dangerous gas inhalation, etc.
Many laboratories deal with corrosive substances that can potentially damage containers, equipment, and tools. More than this, they can also affect your health adversely. If it touches the skin, your flesh might dissolve, and tissues can damage. After immediately washing the skin, you can still get chemical burns. The eye tissues can also be at risk, including the cornea. You can prevent this risk with simple measures. For instance, keep corrosives inside a proper storage cabinet built with industry standards. Label them well so others know they are handling a dangerous chemical. Put the signage on the storage cabinets and the entrance. Keep Safety data sheets (SDS) handy in a weather-proof holder in the chemical cabinet. It will help other staff access technical details about the stored corrosive substance.
At the same time, equip yourself with proper PPE or personal protective equipment. Eyewear, gloves, and others will protect you when you clean the spills.
Heating devices like Bunsen burners help with processing chemicals. Since this method involves fire, you should be careful about fire injury risks. Exposure to more than 70 °C of temperature can cause heat burns on your skin, even if the contact is brief. You need to maintain appropriate safety distance when working with these equipment pieces. Save your protective gear, clothes, and skin from heat sources. When you leave the burner, you should turn it off. To treat heat burn, you can run cold water on the affected part of your body for about ten minutes, waiting for the sensitivity to subside.
It’s ideal to know the type of chemical you handle in the lab. If it accidentally releases gases or liquids, your eyes will suffer. That’s why wearing protective eyewear is critical. Otherwise, even the slightest contact with the damaging chemical can lead to considerable eye injuries. Of course, the level of exposure and hazardous property matters. Minor cases usually involve redness and irritation in the eyes.
On the other hand, an example of the severity can be blindness. You can protect your eyes during experimentation with a suitable eye protection gear piece. Manage harmful chemicals well. Despite this, a chemical substance can splash into your eyes. In that situation, you must visit the emergency station for eyewash. It will help remove toxic elements from the eyes, reducing the scope of damage.
Glassware containers are common in the labs. Technicians use them to store and mix different types of chemicals. But glass can break, and the sharp broken edges can hurt your skin and eyes. Please be careful when working with glassware. Hold the glass container firmly without adding too much pressure. If it gashes the skin, the unattended wound catch infection. So go to the first aid person for dressing. Also, old glassware becomes weak and breaks. One must check its quality constantly and dispose of the old ones. Proper storage is another critical side. Please keep them in a safe place where the falling or shattering risk is almost zero.
A glimpse into possible contamination risks
Many types of foreign microorganisms or substances in the laboratory can affect the quality of the diagnostic and experimental efforts. Anything can be contaminated, such as airborne particles, unsanitary instruments or equipment, and others. Hence, spotting and mitigating those sources is necessary to make the lab safe for its workers and others.
Contamination sources and detection techniques
When unwanted materials or objects change the sample, experimental setup, and reagent’s integrity, the contamination risks become high. You can classify this into different categories: sample contamination, cross-contamination, airborne contamination, etc. Aerosols, chemical vapors, dust particles, and microorganisms can contaminate surfaces and samples. These are airborne particles. When a sample result fails due to contact with chemicals, particles, or microorganisms, you refer to this as sample contamination. Likewise, mishandled, or unclean instruments and tools can also affect samples with contaminants, destroying their reliability. The incident of pollutants traveling from contaminated surfaces to reagents to samples can be a case of cross-contamination.
Labs use various detection methodologies to analyze and monitor contamination sources. To determine indoor air quality, they install air monitoring equipment to capture microorganisms, chemical toxins, and airborne particles. They apply surface sampling measures, such as adhesive tapes and swabbing, to collect materials from equipment and surfaces to investigate particulate or microbial contamination. Through DNA sequencing and other molecular techniques, they check samples for genetic or microbial contamination.
Contamination control strategies and equipment
Labs must follow thorough surveillance and monitoring strategies while embracing the right clean air solutions. Labs should maintain their equipment, workstations, and benches well to mitigate contamination risks. They should have quality control systems to monitor positive and negative results during sample testing. Checking air quality, surfaces, and water sources is also a must. At the same time, these environments need to have a smooth layout for workflow optimization. The contaminated and clean areas should be separated, with fewer footfalls in the risky zone. HVAC systems should have updated filters. Elements like biosafety cabinets and fume hoods can check the growth of contaminants while creating a conducive environment for experimentation. What do biosafety cabinets and fume hoods do?
Biosafety cabinets and fume hoods
You need these systems to increase your facility’s ventilation for the safety of the researchers, samples, and other assets. With efficient ventilation control systems, it becomes easy to eliminate volatile compounds, biological agents, and chemical fumes. Contamination risks caused by airborne particles and others will also be lower. The air will be better and breathable. As a result, your lab personnel and the research work can continue to make an impact. All of these can be attainable with biosafety cabinets and fume hoods. Each equipment type is crucial and purpose-driven.
When dealing with pathogens and microorganisms, these can protect workers and the lab environment. They act like a containment barrier to stop hazardous material from leaking. You would come across three categories of these devices, ranging from Class I to Class III. Class I ensures personnel safety, while Class II saves workers and the environment. You can choose the Class III option only when tackling extremely hazardous agents.
Nevertheless, these cabinets keep the work area sterile and reduce workers’ exposure to harmful materials. Medical companies, clinics, and research labs need these most. You should check components like airflow systems, filters, and curtains when shopping for this solution. Some can also come with access ports, gloves, and workstations to help researchers work in a safe enclosure.
However, one must remember a few things when using this enclosure. You should equip yourself with PPE and disinfect the workspace.
Whether harmful gases, fumes, or vapors, these devices can handle them all. That’s why many labs use them. They help the operator maintain a safe distance from dangerous substances to minimize risk exposure. These systems generally work on the method of negative pressure. Hazardous matters remain inside the hood enclosure while the exhaust system extracts and purifies the infected air to protect the lab. You get various fume hood styles, but each can be ducted or ductless. Ducted models are traditional options. One needs to attach them to the facility’s existing exhaust system to help them throw the contaminated air out. Filtered or ductless fume hoods contain a filtration system to clean the air before recirculating it. How do you choose a suitable fume hood for your laboratory?
One of the crucial considerations is the type of hazardous material you usually deal with in your lab. You also need to assess airflow requirements and the lab environment. If you follow safety protocols when using the device, it will be your facility’s real and reliable workhorse. Make sure to check on the amount of airflow, though. Also, fume hoods deserve proper maintenance and timely inspection like other lab equipment. Clean and test the equipment regularly to ensure it functions well. When you use it, you should wear your PPE and handle potentially hazardous substances carefully. Adhere to suggested operating procedures.
Due to technological progress, labs can maintain a much safer environment by using suitable ventilated devices that ensure safety for samples, experimentation, and technicians. If you pay attention to the task details and the risks, you can choose a proper system effortlessly. Interestingly, modern designs are highly energy-efficient. As a result, you can create a safe environment without exhausting natural resources and damaging the clean fiber of the air. So, consider your options well after analyzing your lab’s environment. Plan your budget as well.