A laboratory can be dangerous, and lab workflows differ from workflows in other work settings, requiring lab-specific safety regulations. These regulations are in place to keep clinical lab staff safe but can be hard to comply with in poorly designed areas. Improving lab safety compliance requires a shift from putting the responsibility on employees to comply to making it the responsibility of management to help lab staff quickly achieve compliance. The following guidelines can be used in existing laboratory settings or with a laboratory buildout to help design better lab spaces with safety compliance in mind.
Lab renovations and new lab constructions present a fantastic opportunity to design your lab space and make it easy and safe for staff to use.
Having food or beverages in the lab is one of America's most common lab violations. Providing your staff with desks outside of the lab space allows them to keep their water bottles at their desks and drink their coffee while doing computer work. Keeping desks inside a laboratory where staff is required to sit when doing their computer work ignores their needs and often leads to drinking and eating in the laboratory space. Visiting a break room to drink coffee, water, etc., is an unrealistic expectation for busy lab staff working on completing their jobs. Computers are not present in a break room, so taking time from their many responsibilities to take a drink is often not possible.
Having shared lab staff offices located next to the lab with a door leading to the kitchen or break room on one side and a door leading to the lab on the opposite side is a good design. The break room or kitchen should also have a door leading out to common areas on the other side. This type of design allows lab staff to enter their work suite and walk directly into the break room or kitchen without entering the lab area to store their food. Then they can walk directly back to their desk without going through the lab to place their beverages on their desk. When staff is required to go into the lab, they can do so through a door in their office. When the door between the lab and the office is kept closed, your lab staff can safely drink and eat while sitting at their desks and can grab a quick snack or drink when they have the time.
Identify electrical needs, then add more.
Many new Laboratories are built with fewer electrical outlets than they need. Unfortunately, this can lead to the dangerous practice of using extension cords to get power where staff needs it. To prevent the overuse of power strips and extension cords, which risks improper grounding, cracking, and fraying, include plenty of electrical outlets for your lab into the design and anticipate future needs by adding more.