Effective laboratory ventilation is crucial to ensure a controlled and safe environment for employees and their experiments. It removes hazardous chemicals and materials and brings in fresh air.
There are two main reasons why the quality of laboratory air is important. It protects the workers from potential health risks and prevents contaminants from impacting experiment outcomes.
Adequate ventilation will also reduce the risk of laboratory fires and explosions by helping to maintain ideal humidity and temperature levels.
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Reduce airborne contaminants
Specifically constructed ventilation systems reduce the airborne contaminants that are released either during handling operations, or from stored chemical containers.
Inadequate ventilation can cause serious health hazards, including respiratory problems and exposure to chemicals.
The most common types of respiratory infections are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (known as COPD) and asthma, according to the World Health Organisation.
Dental laboratory technicians work in an environment where they are frequently exposed to dust. Their health has to be continually monitored as a result.
Research carried out on 125 dental laboratory technicians over a five year period revealed their respiratory health had declined.
At the first health evaluation, 73% of the employees were found to have a normal lung capacity and function. However, at the second round of examinations five years later, this percentage had dropped to 51%.
The study concluded it was vital to adopt comprehensive health and safety precautions for people working in laboratories to avoid health issues in later life.
Permitting contaminants to remain in the air can also lead to inaccurate data from experiment results, compromising the integrity of the work being carried out.
The purpose and layout of the laboratory will determine the type of dust extraction system required. The air exchange rate and airflow are vital to determine the effectiveness of the ventilation system.
An increased air change rate is required for a laboratory, compared with an office, for example. An average office room typically needs four air changes, while laboratory rooms commonly need an air change ten times per hour.
If emergency ventilation is needed in the laboratory, an air change rate of 20 per hour may be required. This is in cases where the air may contain volatile compounds that are hazardous to employee health.
Laboratory ventilation solutions
Filtration and air cleaning equipment, such as the AirBench LF Downflow Workstation, is necessary to remove all hazardous chemicals and materials from the air.
Especially designed for laboratory environments, the range consists of three laminar flow workstations designed to provide an ultra-clean working environment. They use positive pressure ULPA filtered air to make sure no contaminant can reach the product.
A downdraught bench providing the continuous downward flow of air through multi-stage filters keeps contaminated air out of the workspace. This enables very clean production and assembly processes.
AirBench laboratory and cleanroom solutions include downdraught cabinets and laminar flow workstations.
It is essential that employees understand the proper use and operation of the ventilation equipment to ensure laboratory workers’ health and safety.
The Health and Safety Executive in the UK is responsible for hazardous area classification and laboratory operations.
Companies who fall foul of the law and fail to take the necessary precautions to keep the workforce safe can be liable for hefty fines. In severe cases, the investigating authority may recommend the individual responsible receives a term of imprisonment, as well as a fine.